In the scope of Canada’s history, air travel has been a relatively new occurrence—most travellers and immigrants came to Canada via ocean liner.

By 1913, it was clear that Halifax’s old Pier 2 built in 1880 couldn’t handle the volume of immigration and the size of the ocean liners that were coming to Canada. A new, larger port with an integrated railway station was commissioned: Pier 21. Construction was delayed by both World War One and the Halifax explosion, but the new terminal officially opened in 1928. Similar to Ellis Island in the United States, the facilities at the pier contained immigration offices so that they could welcome both travellers and those looking for a new home.

Did you know?

  1. Pier 21 was built in response to increasing immigration to Canada, and because of the growing size of ocean liners. It served as the port for Atlantic Ocean liners coming to Canada.
  2. Over its lifetime, the complex welcomed over one million immigrants to Canada.
  3. According to Ruth Goldbloom, OC, ONS former chair of the Pier 21 Foundation, one in five Canadians has a direct link to Pier 21.
  4. The pier didn’t just welcome people in, it was a departure point for half a million soldiers in World War Two.
  5. Upon the end of the war, the port welcomed back the soldiers, as well as approximately 48,000 war brides and their 22,000 children.
  6. The growth of air travel led to a decline in immigration by boat.
  7. In 1970, less than 1,200 people immigrated through Pier 21, so it was closed in 1971.
  8. From 1971 to 1992 the pier was abandoned, becoming a rat-infested, dilapidated shell.
  9. However, the complex was revamped, reopening in 1999 as a Museum of Immigration at Pier 21—recognizing the immigrant experience and its contribution to Canada.
  10. The museum became one of six national museums in Canada in 2010. In a poll held by the CBC, Pier 21 was voted as one of the 7 Wonders of Canada.