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Happy Canada Day! Canada now has a National Immigration Museum

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July 1st is Canada Day, a day for all of Canada’s citizens and Permanent Residents to celebrate the benefits and opportunities bestowed up them as Canadians.  Recognizing the contributions made by immigrants and the importance of immigration to the country’s history, the Government of Canada has now given national museum status to Canada’s Immigration Museum, Pier 21.

July 1, 2009 marks the 142nd anniversary of the confederation Canada, whereby the British North American provinces were united in the federation of Canada.  Now commonly known as Canada Day, Canadians have been celebrating the official establishment of the country since 1867.

Looking back in history, immigration has played a crucial role in the development and evolution of the country.

Pier 21, self-described as Canada’s Immigration Museum, has been celebrating and creating awareness about immigration to Canada for the past 10 years.  Located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the museum is housed in a red-brick building that once operated as an official Canadian immigration gateway for those arriving by sea.  Over 1 million immigrants passed through Pier 21 between 1928 and 1971.

In celebration of its 10th anniversary, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has conferred national museum status to Pier 21, giving it the official title of “Canada’s National Immigration Museum.”  It is now one of six national museums in Canada, and only the second one outside of the nation’s capital to receive this designation.

“Pier 21 symbolizes who we are – a nation of newcomers, newcomers bonded together by a common quest for freedom, democracy and opportunity,” said Prime Minister Harper.  “No country in the world has benefited more than Canada from free and open immigration.”

Currently, exhibits at Pier 21 focus mainly on the historical period when the building was operational as an immigration office.  Now, the museum intends to expand the scope of its exhibits to cover immigration to Canada from its beginnings, right up to the present.

“If you tell the larger story of immigration,” says Bob Moody, CEO of Pier 21, “with the Pier 21 years as the sort of crown jewel, then you’re going to appeal to all Canadians, not just the one in five we claim have a direct connection to Pier 21.”

In doing so, the museum will illustrate the historical progress and failures of Canadian immigration policy and actions.

The museum plans to design a full schedule of thematic exhibitions, coordinate more travelling exhibitions, and develop and upgrade its permanent ones.

The federal government has pledged $10 million to ensure that Pier 21’s exhibitions represent its new national mandate.  Up to $5 million more will be put towards operations.

In his address, the Prime Minister said that the new national museum will “tell the story, not just of the Europeans who passed through Pier 21, but of those who came later from Asia, Africa, and our own hemisphere and of those who will come tomorrow, because newcomers will be as much a part of Canada’s future as they have been of our past.”

Pier 21 also works with the Nova Scotia’s Office of Immigration and Department of Community Services, offering newcomers a six-month work term at the museum.  These internships provide workplace and language training and help place newcomers in jobs throughout the community.