Canada 150 – What does this mean to you?

Pondering this thought at Pier 21

June 30, 2017

By: Victoria Rogers

Victoria on the threshold of the Scotiabank Family History Centre. Victoria’s parents, Captain Derrick Rogers and his wife Celia, immigrated to Canada from England in 1960 on the the RMS Carinthia lll after Derrick joined the Canadian Armed Forces as a Medical Officer.

Until recently I hadn’t really given Canada’s upcoming 150th Birthday much deliberation. Of course, I was feeling patriotic and looking forward to a lazy long weekend, but not much more. Serendipitously, this dramatically changed as I took a step like millions before me through the gateway of Pier 21…formally known as the Canadian Museum of Immigration in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

One in five Canadians have a connection to Pier 21, and I believe it should be remembered in Canada’s 150th Celebration. We all have an immigration story and for many Canadian families it began by crossing this threshold. I felt within the walls of Pier 21 the energy of our forefathers. It pulsed with their fatigue after an arduous journey at sea, and their hope of a new life in Canada…rich in peace, love and prosperity.

The word museum for many conjures up a dusty, dimly lit room filled with ancient artifacts. However, Pier 21 is a vibrant and exciting place to visit! There were so many school children sprawled on the floor I could barely find a clear pathway. They loved the replica of the first class ship’s cabin and the nearby trunk and story of little Ariella, (who came with her family to Canada in 1955 from Naples). I could relate! In March 1960 my own parents arrived at Pier 21 from England with my two sisters (one was two years old and the other who was born that May in Canada)! My sister Claire would have had similar hand knit sweaters and smocked dresses like little Ariella’s. Our families shared similar hopes of a kinder, gentler world to call home.

I had plenty of time for soul searching as I walked through Pier 21. I contemplated my own parents voyage on the Carinthia, but also those less fortunate whose immigration dreams did not become a reality. This included 376 Sikh, Muslim and Hindu passengers aboard the SS Komagata Maru. In 1914, their vessel was turned away by the Canadian Government and forced to return to India and a most certain violent fate. But, from these somber thoughts of Canada’s dark past came light…the global awareness that today Canada stands as a welcoming beacon to those facing peril elsewhere in this uncertain world.

In Halifax, Nova Scotia stands the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. From there, I can hear the chorus of “Happy Birthday’ sung in many languages from coast to coast to coast. Pier 21 symbolizes our great country of immigrants singing not always in perfect harmony, but joyfully carrying this tune across the miles.

Fiona Valverde (Chief Revenue Officer Pier 21) demonstrates Nova Scotia’s renowned warmth and hospitality while touring Victoria through the Museum’s engaging exhibits.

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
Halifax, Nova Scotia