For nearly 50 years, until 1971, Pier 21 served as a gateway to Canada for over 1.5 million new immigrants. To commemorate the important role that these newcomers have had in shaping modern-day Canada, the site which is now home to an immigration museum, has been named one of the “Seven Wonders of Canada”.
On the Atlantic coast of Canada, in the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, we find one of the busiest harbours in North America. In a port where thousands of ships carrying hundreds of millions worth of goods pass through each year, national attention has turned once again towards one pier in the harbour that has not received a single ship in over 30 years.
This has been a banner year for Canada’s immigration museum at Pier 21. The pier closed down as an active immigration processing center in 1971, and sat unused for over two decades afterwards. In 1999 the building was refurbished and re-opened as a museum. After nearly a decade open to the public, the museum is expanding, with the addition earlier this year of the Scotiabank Research Centre. The research institute will host a collection of documents and artefacts from the Canadian immigration experience. In addition, this year has seen a funding boost towards the museum’s planned expansion, including a federal government grant and private donations. With the increased attention from the “Seven Wonders” honour, it is expected the museum will reach its fundraising target for the expansion by the end of the year.
The Canadian “Seven Wonders” list was compiled by a panel of judges for a program on CBC television and radio, Canada’s national public broadcaster. The Atlantic immigration gateway at Pier 21, which was the first stop for so many Canadians on their arrival to the country, shares the honour with some impressive competition. Some of the other wonders rounding out the list include the world-famous Niagara Falls, the breathtaking Rocky Mountain range, and the well-preserved historic quarter of Quebec City, which is recognized as a UNESCO world-heritage site. The judges pointed to the importance of immigration to Canada’s multicultural national identity in recognizing the country’s last remaining ocean immigration shed.