Creating Canada's New National Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 Act

An Act to amend the Museums Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.


James Moore  Conservative


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Museums Act to establish a corporation called the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and to set out its purpose, capacity and powers. It also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Creating Canada's New National Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / noon
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Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.


James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

moved that Bill C-34, An Act to amend the Museums Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to be here to begin the debate on Bill C-34, a bill that will amend the Museums Act to create a new national museum, the Canadian museum of immigration, at Pier 21 in Halifax.

Investing in Canada's national museum was a commitment our government made during the campaign. Creating a new national museum at Pier 21 in Halifax was a commitment we made in the throne speech adopted by this House. We are proud to bring this bill before the House. It will confirm Pier 21 as the second national museum created in 40 years, and the second national museum outside of the national capital.

No country in the world has benefited more than Canada has from our immigration regime. As the Prime Minister said in Halifax at Pier 21 last June:

In every Canadians make major contributions to our culture, economy and way of life....Anybody who makes the decision to live, work and build a life in our country represents the very best of what it means to be Canadian.

Our government believes in our national museums and recognizes their tremendous value to Canadians. We want Canadians and visitors to Canada to have access to our rich heritage. The Canadian museum of immigration at Pier 21 will help recognize and celebrate the experience of immigrants arriving in Canada, the fundamental role immigrants have played in building Canada and their contributions to Canada's identity and all aspects of Canadian society. The museum will be a significant symbol of Canada's contributions and commitment to pluralism and the role of immigration in shaping Canadian identity.

This new museum will be located at the historic Pier 21 site in the Halifax seaport. That site holds very special memories for the one in five Canadians who can trace their lineage back to Pier 21. It is the port through which, between 1928 and 1971, their families immigrated to Canada. It is the port that saw more than 500,000 members of Canada's armed forces embark to defend Canada's values in the second world war.

I would like to congratulate the leaders of the Pier 21 museum, who deserve recognition for their enthusiasm for and contributions to this project and its remarkable achievement. They include Ruth Goldbloom, chair of the Pier 21 Foundation and one of the original driving forces behind the creation of the Pier 21 museum; John Oliver and Wadih Fares, the current and past chairs of the Pier 21 Society; and of course, Bob Moody, the current CEO of Pier 21.

The Canadian museum of immigration at Pier 21 will pay tribute to a mission that affects all of Canada. It will tell the story of Canadians who entered the country through the Vancouver gateway at the end of the 19th century. It will tell the story of the first nations whose ancestral knowledge of the land helped newcomers to survive. It will speak to the new Canadians who have arrived recently at the Montreal, Toronto or Calgary airports.

It speaks to Canadians whose ancestors took the dangerous journey, represented by the Underground Railroad. It is a mission that speaks to all Canadians and to our values.

Until 2008, all national museums were located in the national capital region, despite the fact that the Museums Act clearly states that the head office for a national museum can be anywhere in Canada.

This government recognizes that our national museums belong to all Canadians. Under this government, funding for our national museums has never been higher. In every one of our government's budgets, we have increased funding for the national museums. Not only is funding at its highest level under the leadership of the Prime Minister, but our government has also created two new national museums; one in Winnipeg and one in Halifax.

The executive director of the Canadian Museums Association, John McAvity, said recently about our support for museums at Canadian Heritage that the Prime Minister “deserves credit for delivering new funds--indeed, the largest new investment in culture in recent memory”.

Pier 21 will draw on the model that has been well tested for our long-serving national museums. This legislation will establish the museum as a federal crown corporation with the same status as other national museums. It will be accountable to Parliament, and its board of trustees will be appointed by the government in accordance with the Museums Act.

Just like other national museums, it will offer its services in both of Canada's official languages, and it will have an obligation to enhance the vitality of official language minority communities.

The bill will ensure that the museum will begin, as soon as it is created, to develop the public programming that reflects its mandate.

Our museum of immigration at Pier 21 is only the sixth national museum to be created in 143 years since Confederation. This museum is about the people of Canada, and it is for the people of Canada. It will belong to all Canadians, and I am proud to present this enabling legislation on behalf of the government.

Finally, I would like to add that I am very proud to work with all the opposition parties on this legislation to ensure that it passes in a non-partisan and effective way. Of course, partisanship is what gets highlighted in the daily news, but the reality is that when members of Parliament see a common goal and something that is clearly in the best interest of all Canadians, we can rally around certain key projects. I think all parties did that with regard to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and I think we have done so again here with regard to Pier 21, Canada's national museum for immigration.

This is a good project. It comes from the greatest sentiments that are at the root of Canada's history. We want to cherish the fact that Canada is, always has been, and will continue to be a country of immigrants. We are very proud to sponsor this legislation and to have the full support of the members of the opposition parties.

Creating Canada's New National Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 12:05 p.m.
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Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario


Michael Ignatieff LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support Bill C-34, an act to create a national museum at Pier 21 in Halifax-Dartmouth. I am very pleased to give my personal support to this bill.

Before I continue, Madam Speaker, I would like to ask for consent to split my time with the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

Creating Canada's New National Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 12:05 p.m.
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Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Madam Speaker, I am rising today to speak on behalf of this project.

I spent a very happy Friday morning at Pier 21, as it happens, with that force of nature, Ruth Goldbloom, and Wadih Fares and all the incredible civic leaders of Halifax who have made this dream a reality.

I want to announce the support of my party for this wonderful project, but I also stand for a very personal reason. One of the greatest things about Pier 21 as a project is that it contains all the records of Canada's immigration service in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, not just for the port of entry at Halifax but for the ports of entry at Quebec City and Montreal and other ports of entry. Therefore, all Canadians will be able to go to Pier 21 and find the place where their part in the national story begins.

That is what happened to me on Friday. I asked Pier 21 whether they could locate a certain George Ignatieff, age 15, who came ashore in Canada in Quebec City in September 1928. I wanted to find the moment at which my family's story began in Canada. Thanks to the wonderful researchers at Pier 2, they went down the long columns of those admission registers, and they found that young 15-year-old, my father.

It is meaningful to me to stand in this great Parliament and acknowledge with gratitude what Canada has done for my family. I think that everyone who goes to this great national museum, everyone whose life started as an immigrant, who started the new adventure in Canada, will find this museum especially moving, especially emotional, because it is the place where when we study all those records, Canadians can find the moment when their dream began.

For that reason, I feel especially proud to stand as the leader of this party and urge the House to give rapid assent to this marvellous bill so that we can create a museum that will allow all Canadians the joy and pleasure that I enjoyed on Friday. Thanks to the work of Ruth Goldbloom and Wadih Fares and that wonderful team, all Canadian families will enjoy that moment of thrill, discovery, and emotion I experienced on Friday.

Creating Canada's New National Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, it has always been my view that every Canadian should, at least once in their lifetime, attend a citizenship ceremony, to see the pride of new Canadians, to hear them take the citizenship oath and to stand ramrod straight and sing O Canada. Whether born in Canada or, like myself, come to Canada at a young age, one cannot help but be absolutely touched and amazed by the pride and the passion of those who have chosen Canada.

Every Canada Day, a citizenship ceremony is held at Pier 21, and a more perfect union could never be made. New Canadians from all over the world become citizens on the very ground that started the Canadian journey for so many others.

As the first nation to embrace multiculturalism as a national policy, it seems natural that we would have the National Museum of Immigration, but it has only come about through vision, dedication and unrelenting hard work.

Many people played a big role in the evolution of Pier 21. It is not possible to pay tribute to all of the volunteers, donors, partners and staff, but if there is one thing that ever person who ever worked for Pier 21 could agree on, it is that Ruth Goldbloom is the driving force, the heart and soul, the energy that made Pier 21 come back to life.

In 1989 Mr. Leblanc asked her to join the Pier 21 Society and in 1993 she became its president. At the time, Pier 21 was a dusty, empty old shed on the waterfront that reeked of history, and likely reeked of much else, but seemed an unlikely candidate to be chosen as one of the Seven Wonders of Canada. However, Ruth could see something and, more important, she could translate that vision to others. She not only encouraged people to get involved, she appreciated everybody who ever helped with Pier 21, whether they worked in the gift shop or whether they gave $1 million.

The most remarkable thing, in fact, about Ruth Goldbloom's leadership is her sincere belief that she is genuinely privileged to have been able to serve. When she speaks of people like Bill Snooey of the Dutch Reformed Church, who visited Pier 21 when it was an old shed on the harbour and how she connected with him and his ancestors, we get a sense of her humility and her connection to those who loved Pier 21.

Pier 21 is more than just a special place or an historic place. To many, it is an honoured place and to some it a sacred place. Thousands of Canadians, such as my leader, connect to ancestors at Pier 21. It helps to make them whole. Indeed, Pier 21 helps to make Canada whole.

Today is a special day. I would not be surprised if Ruth Goldbloom, who once was known as Nova Scotia's Shirley Temple, does not have a little celebratory dance tonight, with John Oliver, Wadih Fares, Bob Moody and the many others who are celebrating. This is a special day. Parliament has come together to honour our past, to celebrate our great country today and to prepare for a bright future and let Pier 21 take its rightful place as Canada's National Museum of Immigration.

Congratulations to everybody.

Creating Canada's New National Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
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Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-34, establishing the national museum of immigration in Halifax. The Bloc Québécois is dedicated to the interests and the defence of Quebec, a role that we have fulfilled effectively for 20 years. Any attempt by the federal government—indeed, any temptation it may have—to weaken Quebec's powers, meddle in its jurisdictions or go against its interests will be opposed by the Bloc Québécois. Let there be no mistake about that.

Having said that, the Bloc Québécois's role in Ottawa is not and never has been to hinder the development of Canada's provinces. As the Bloc Québécois official languages critic, I have always worked very hard for the francophone and Acadian communities of Canada and listened carefully to Quebec anglophones. Once again this year, it was this openness to the rest of Canada that led the Bloc Québécois leader to tour English Canada to increase awareness about our ideas.

My point is that the Bloc Québécois supports the creation of an immigration museum in Halifax. Moreover, it agrees that this matter should be handled swiftly in order for Nova Scotians and tourists alike to benefit from it as quickly as possible.

I will come back to the museum in a moment, because I must point out that it is very unfortunate that the government has not acted as swiftly with the Science and Technology Museum.

Twenty-eight years ago, the federal government made a promise to the people of the Outaouais that it would move the Science and Technology Museum to Gatineau. The unfortunate closure in 2007 of the Domtar mill, the oldest pulp and paper mill in Canada and Quebec, housed in the old E.B. Eddy plant in the Hull sector, was a tragedy for many forestry workers in Gatineau. The government could turn this tragedy into something more positive by relocating the Science and Technology Museum to this heritage building. The old match factory could be revived, in a way.

Michelle Guitard, a historian and specialist in industrial heritage, agreed in an article that appeared on the website on January 24, 2010, and I quote:

The federal government must acquire this site...It cannot let this go. [If it were to do so,] it would show that the government has absolutely no sense of what made Canada what it is today, the importance of the first nations and of the pulp and paper industry.

On February 16, Michel Prévost, the chair of the Outaouais historical society, spoke to Radio-Canada about developing the Chaudière Falls sector and transferring the Science and Technology Museum to Gatineau. He said, “Let us hope that this dream will become a reality sooner rather than later”.

Just this morning, the following article appeared on page 8 of Le Droit:

Officials responsible for the [Gatineau science and technology museum] project must now consider wedging the museum inside an abandoned paper factory dating from the mid-1800s. Documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show officials have already begun surveying the old E.B. Eddy Co. factory in Gatineau as a possible location for the museum.

The documents suggest that the location meets the needs of the new museum because it includes elements of past, present and future and it is close to downtown.

The collections are currently located in an industrial park far from the downtown core, inside a bakery warehouse the federal government bought in 1967. The location was intended to be temporary, but 43 years later the Canada Science and Technology Museum remains a national orphan.

This contrasts with statements from the Conservative minister responsible for the Outaouais, the member for Pontiac, who is being a real killjoy on this issue.

People in Saint-Constant have been waiting for Exporail to be recognized as the national railway museum since 2007. A report about that from the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage was adopted in the House on March 1, 2007, but since then, for some unknown reason, the federal government has done nothing.

My colleague from Châteauguay—Saint-Constant pushed hard for that recognition. She is still pushing for it. But unfortunately, recognition does not seem to mean much to this government. Maybe the Conservatives think that they have more to gain from the immigration museum in Halifax than from Exporail in Saint-Constant or from transferring the Science and Technology Museum to Gatineau.

The point is that this government has done nothing to develop federal museums in Quebec.

That being said, an immigration museum is a good idea. In order to know where we are going, we should know where we come from.

Because of Quebec's minority situation, immigration has always had a special status and a special role to play. As Louis Balthazar told the Bouchard-Taylor commission:

Quebeckers have experienced ethnic pluralism for a long time: aboriginals, Scottish and Irish anglophones, Jews, Italians, etc.

But, because of the Durham report, immigration was perceived as necessarily favouring the anglophone minority. Consequently, beginning in 1840, French Canadians turned inward while still living under British rule and being influenced by both the British model and American ideas. Most immigrants were English-speaking.

As a result, it was alarming to realize that the birth rate was dropping, especially at a time when francophone Quebeckers wanted to establish themselves as the majority in Quebec.

Something new has been happening since the end of the 1960s. An immigration department was established. Federal-provincial agreements were signed outlining the Quebec government's role in immigration: in 1971, a presence in federal offices; 1975, Quebec offices overseas; 1978, selection; 1990, welcome and integration. Quebec's 1975.

Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and 1977 Charter of the French Language are the two pillars of modern Quebec society and lay the foundations for the harmonious integration of immigrants.

Will this particular dimension of immigrant integration and the fear that it created in under-educated Quebec, notably due to the mass arrival of anglophones, be reflected in this new museum in Halifax?

Will the bitter negotiations between Quebec and Ottawa to allow Quebec to control immigration based on its own interest and the integration of immigrants into a French society within North America be presented in this new museum in Halifax?

We cannot forget that, for close to 20 years, Quebec negotiated with the federal government in order to acquire more power over the selection and integration of its immigrants. Four administrative agreements were signed by the Quebec government and Ottawa to this effect.

Creating Canada's New National Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 12:25 p.m.
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Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I am proud to speak today in support of Bill C-34. This bill would create Canada's new national museum of immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax.

Pier 21 is many things to many people. It is a place of historical value, a literal gateway to Canada for many Canadian families. It is also a wonderful museum that has captured the story of immigration for all of us to share. As someone who lives in Halifax, it is also a living, breathing community space in Halifax, hosting celebratory dinners, inspiring lectures, and coming full circle to host quite a few citizenship ceremonies for new Canadians.

Today we have the opportunity to bring Pier 21 and all that it represents into the family of national museums. Naming Pier 21 as a national museum is a testament to Canada's history as a place of refuge, a place of new beginnings and a place of hope. Canada has been and will continue to be defined by how we treat those who come to our country seeking asylum, a safe haven or a better life. This museum will be a breathing interactive symbol of human rights, and economic and social justice.

The history of Pier 21 is remarkable and has touched virtually every family in every region in Canada. We can learn so much from the different stories that are told through the history of Pier 21. Each story tells about a different era of Canadian immigration, a different school of thought, and illustrates changes to the role that Canada played in the international community.

One thing is clear from any visit to Pier 21: the history of immigration in Canada is two-sided. It is both a history to be proud of but at times a history where pride is overshadowed by racist or classist policies. But it is a history that we can be honest about and a history that we can learn from.

During the potato famine of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the city of York, now Toronto, accepted 50,000 Irish refugees, a total greater than the city's population. The city could have rejected these refugees because many of them were seriously ill and public health issues were not very well understood or well managed in Canada. The city of York welcomed these refugees and provided them with treatment and a place to call home.

Only a few decades later in the 1930s many Jewish refugees were sent away. They were refused entry for pretty dubious reasons, reasons that were rooted in discrimination, bigotry and apathy. Only 5,000 Jewish refugees were accepted. I would like members to think of the thousands of lives that could have been saved if we had opened our doors to more than that. To say this is a black mark on Canadian history is an understatement. The realities of the government decision were difficult to rationalize after the extent of the Holocaust was fully understood by the end of World War II.

Yet, history repeated itself again in 1914 when the Komagata Maru was turned around, sending some of its Indian passengers to their deaths, and denying all of them the freedoms that those decision-makers clearly took for granted themselves.

These are difficult stories, but they are a part of our history. We can learn from these stories which are well displayed and explained at Pier 21.

I have seen firsthand how the stories told at Pier 21 have touched people. A friend of mine who was visiting Halifax thought he would stop by Pier 21 on the morning he was flying out because he had heard so much about it. He did not have a personal connection to Pier 21. Neither his parents nor his grandparents had arrived at this port, but he thought he would spend a bit of time there before his flight. He became so wrapped up in the museum that he actually ended up missing his flight later that day. That is the kind of effect this museum can have on people.

A couple of summers ago my father and stepmother came out to Halifax for a visit and we went to the museum. We had a nice time exploring. On the way out we thought we would stop by the research centre and see what it was all about. Before long, with an approximation of the spelling of my stepmother's grandfather's last name, we found her family records. Her grandfather had travelled alone on a steamship with $10 in his pocket. Her grandmother arrived later with the children, including her father. It was such a surprise. We had no intention of doing a family search when we went in. The research centre staff were helpful and welcoming, and the information was easy to access. It is an incredible centre. What was intended to be a half hour stop at a museum turned in to several very emotional hours unravelling a family history. This is what Pier 21 does for people.

My own family shares a history of immigration to Canada as well, like many people here in the House. My grandfather, Tauno Paavola, came to Canada, also alone, on a ship that arrived in Montreal. In Montreal, without knowing a word of English, he was loaded on to a train with a placard put around his neck that had a strange English word on it. The same thing happened to a friend from the same village back in Finland, but he had a different word. They soon realized that this word represented the name of a town where they were to be settled: Winnipeg and Edmonton. My grandfather knew that there were Finlanders in Toronto, so as the train approached Toronto, he actually jumped the train and set off on foot to find other Finns.

Eventually, my grandfather made enough money to send for my grandmother, my mother and my uncles. He worked hard as a carpenter and an underground miner, and in one generation, he was able to send his kids to college and university, and the second generation saw me become the second Finnish Canadian member of Parliament in Canada's history. I am sure it was well beyond my grandfather's imagination when he was on that ship, taking the overseas journey from Finland to Canada.

Pier 21 tells us stories like this, the stories of migration to Canada, and it does it in a thoughtful, truthful and inspiring way. It is only right that it become our national museum of immigration.

I would like to take a moment to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the hundreds of people who have worked to create this special place, dedicating their time, their money and their passion. That effort, like that of Canada's immigrants, was made for us all. Collecting, preserving and sharing the stories of those who arrived in Canada, in Halifax, has always been the goal of the Pier 21 Society, and I think it should be a goal of ours. This simple immigration shed on the Halifax waterfront is a place people do not just visit, but to which they make a pilgrimage. As a national museum, it will reach many more people and tell stories. It will honour all Canadians.

Like my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, I would like to recognize the tireless efforts of Ruth Goldbloom, a woman who made Pier 21 the incredible museum that we love.

It is important to note that the historical collection at Pier 21 already contains stories and memories from all ports of entry in Canada from families across the country. It is well suited to be a museum of national focus, but with very special regional significance.

At Pier 21, programs like “Community Presents” and “Diversity Spotlight” ensure that the programming is tied to all aspects of the Halifax community, and the local and regional multicultural communities. The Pier 21 programming slate includes educational tools for teachers and parents, multicultural fairs, summer camps, and public lectures. It is truly a place of learning and sharing, and as a national museum it will bring this element of community development to a broader level. These are not just words on paper. This is something that people in Halifax get to experience and see every day.

I am very proud that parties were able to work together to expedite the passage of the bill. Through its passage, we will send a message to everyone who chose and everyone who will choose to make Canada their home and that Canada is a better place with them in it.