Canada's newest national museum at Pier 21

Halifax, Nova Scotia
25 June 2009

The Harper Government has agreed in principle to create a new national museum at Halifax’s Historic Pier 21.


Currently a National Historic Site, Pier 21 holds special significance as a primary point of entry for immigrants between 1928 and 1971.  Over that time more than a million new Canadians entered the country through the Pier 21 portal.  Pier 21 also played an important staging role for Canada’s Armed Forces during the Second World War, serving as the point of departure for more than 500,000 Canadian troops.

Between its historic immigration and war-time roles, today one in five Canadians can trace a family connection to Pier 21.  Specifically, large trends of immigration from England, Hungary, the Baltic nations, Italy and Germany are linked to Pier 21. 

The new national museum will not only build on Pier 21’s historic role, but also celebrate the history of all immigration to Canada. 

The museum will incorporate the experiences of more recent immigration trends – and also less-recent immigration to different parts of Canada, including Asian and South Asian immigration to Canada’s West Coast.

Part of the Government of Canada’s funding is aimed at expanding Pier 21’s scope and mandate, to include all major Canadian newcomer experiences that have contributed to building our great country.

For a more detailed history of Pier 21’s significance to Canadian immigration, you may visit:


Immigration has been pivotal force in building Canada as a nation.  The energy, ideas and dynamism of new Canadians will play a major role in Canada’s recovery from the global recession.

Whether it is through settling land as pioneers, working in factories to feed our industrial growth or contributing innovative ideas that make Canada competitive in the global, knowledge-based economy, immigrants have always made major contributions to the Canadian economy.  This trend is expected to continue in the future.  In fact, between 2015 and 2017 all net labour force growth in Canada will come from immigration. 

Canada has one of the highest per capita rates of permanent immigration in the world – roughly 0.8 percent in recent years – and has welcomed 3.5 million immigrants in the last 15 years.  In 2006, about 20 percent of Canada’s population was foreign-born. 

Canada is also a leader in granting newcomers the full range of rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship.  In 2006, about 85 percent of permanent residents who were eligible for Canadian citizenship had acquired that status.  Obtaining citizenship is a key step in the integration process for newcomers because it means they can participate fully in Canadian life.


The Government’s partners in the project are the Pier 21 Society, the Pier 21 Foundation, and the Halifax Port Authority.

Under the agreement in principle, the Harper Government will make an initial investment of up to $10 million to enable the museum to develop a program that reflects its national mandate in its exhibitions and through its website, and up to $5 million towards the operation of the new national museum, subject to approval of its corporate plan.

The Pier 21 Society is a non-profit charitable organization founded in Halifax in 1988.  The Pier 21 Society will contribute all its assets to the new national museum, including $3 million it secured from the province of Nova Scotia to enhance its program.

The Pier 21 Foundation is a non-profit charitable organization established in 2002 to raise funds and provide other assistance to the Pier 21 Society.  Since that time, the Foundation has built a $7 million endowment fund that will be transferred to the national museum to enhance its educational and public programming capacity.

The Port of Halifax is one of the world’s leading ports and is known around the globe for its location, facilities, services and efficient connections. The Halifax Port Authority operates the port, including the national historic site that will house the national museum.

The next step in the process of establishing a new national museum is to develop a legally binding agreement among all partners.  Following the signing of such an agreement, the Harper Government will introduce legislation to amend the Museums Act to add Pier 21 to list of Crown corporations governed under the act.  After the passage of this legislation, the Government will appoint a Board of Trustees and Director to oversee the national museum.


This will be just the sixth national museum in all of Canada and only the second national museum outside of the National Capital Region. 

National museums are federal Crown corporations, established under the Museums Act.  The Government is their sole shareholder.  All national museums receive annual parliamentary appropriations to cover the majority of their operating costs.

There are currently five national museums, three of which have affiliate museums:

• The Canada Science and Technology Museum (including the Canada Agriculture Museum and the Canada Aviation Museum)

• The Canadian Museum of Civilization (including the Canadian War Museum)

• The Canadian Museum of Nature

• The National Gallery of Canada (including the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography)

• The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (currently under construction).