WATCH: It’s been closed to the public for months, but today a key part of Pier 21 officially reopened its doors. The new state-of-the-art Canadian Museum of Immigration showcases the contribution newcomers to Canada have had and continue to have on this countries culture. Global’s Natasha Pace reports.
HALIFAX – The first time Traian Dimitriou visited Pier 21 was on May 2nd, 1954.
“When I first stepped in Canada, on the soil right here, at Pier 21, I really felt free. Free,” Dimitriou said as he walks through the newly re-vamped Canadian Museum of Immigration. “I came here about 2-years ago and I was flooded with memories of that period of time. From arriving here, being processed you know, and getting a little card and all of that kind of stuff.”
Thursday, the Museum of Immigration was officially reopened, after getting a $30 million dollar expansion. The museum first opened its doors in 2011, but closed in October of 2014 for renovations. It’s now double the size, and features new and engaging exhibits. Officials say the exhibits are meant to showcase the contributions newcomers have to our culture.
“We’re talking about the impact immigrants have had on Canada. We’re talking about their journey, their arrival, the aspects of belonging, do people feel like they belong, when does somebody become Canadian and not an immigrant,” says Kristine Kovacevic, Manager of Interpretation and Visitor Experience at the Canadian Museum of Immigration.
An official ceremony was held to mark the museum’s opening day. Among those who spoke about their own experience at Pier 21 was Canada’s Associate Minister of Defence, Julian Fantino. “62 years ago, in 1953, it was here, that I first set foot on Canadian soil. And for my wife Liviana, it was in 1958,” Fantino told the crowd who gathered to see the museum. “I still remember that experience as if it was yesterday.”
Exhibits at the museum tell the story of Canadian immigration, from hundreds of years ago, to now. They also allow visitors to take a closer look at the journey many families took to start a new life in Canada.
“To understand Canada, you got to understand a little bit of immigration and that’s what we’re doing here,” Kovacevic tells Global News.
Pier 21 is the last surviving seaport immigration facilities in Canada. Between 1928 and 1971, more than one million immigrants came to Canada through the terminal.