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Annual Public Meeting 2020

Time 0:24:06


Robert Vineberg, Chairperson:

Good day everyone.

The video that you have just watched illustrates the countless journeys that immigrants made and continue to make to come to Canada. It may have reminded you of your own family’s story.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees and staff, I’d like to welcome you to our Annual Public Meeting for the Fiscal Year ending March 31, 2020. Therefore most of what we will be relating refers to that long-ago era before the pandemic.

As you may know, traditionally every second year, the Museum holds its Annual Public Meeting in a different location across the country. This year we had planned to meet in my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. However, due to Covid-19 and restrictions on travel and gatherings, we have moved the event online and are coming to you from both Winnipeg and the (Canadian) Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax, With this in mind, I wish to acknowledge that the museum is located in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaw People. Similarly, I would also like to acknowledge that Winnipeg is on Treaty 1 territory, the original lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene Peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation. It is in the spirit of their welcome that I greet you all today. We are all very fortunate to share this land we call Canada.

(Translated from French)
It is my absolute pleasure today to recognize and thank those who make this incredible Museum possible. Collecting, preserving and sharing stories of immigration, journeys, arrival, settlement and impact is, of course, why we exist. And, we would not be able to bring these stories to you without the generous support of the Government of Canada.

(Translated from French)
The Museum generates additional revenue through ticket sales, rental fees, the gift shop, philanthropy and other sources. These funds provide the additional services and programs our visitors appreciate and indeed expect. In 2019/20 self-generated revenue was just over $3 million.

Thank you to each and every one of our individual, corporate and foundation donors. Your generous support allows the Museum to offer the amazing programs and experiences for our visitors of all ages. I would like to extend an extra-special thank you to our donors who have joined us on this call today.

(Translated from French)
Thank you for the bricks you have purchased, your Pier 21 Club memberships, the programs you have sponsored and all that your generosity continues to make possible at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.

I would like to recognize the management team of the Museum, staff, and volunteers led by our wonderful CEO, Marie Chapman.

(Translated from French)
Congratulations to all of you and thank you very much.

And finally, I would like to personally acknowledge the work of my colleagues on the board of trustees. Their commitment and stewardship serve the Museum so well. Collectively, staff, management and our board of trustees, bring to life our vision of connecting Canadians to our immigration history past and present. Thank you. And as my First Nations neighbours would say, Miigwech.

And now over to our CEO, Marie Chapman.

Marie Chapman, CEO

Thank you Rob and thank you for your unwavering leadership and support of the Museum.

The Museum’s mandate is to explore the theme of immigration to Canada in order to enhance public understanding of the experiences of immigrants as they arrived in Canada, of the vital role immigration has played in the building of Canada and the contributions of immigrants to Canada’s culture, economy and way of life.

(Translated from French)
As a museum of stories, we collect oral histories and first-hand accounts. The stories we share are not only from the almost one million immigrants who once passed through Pier 21’s gateway to Canada, but represent the diversity of newcomers who have chosen to make Canada their home from first contact to present day.

It is my pleasure to share with you some of the highlights from 2019/20. This past year again saw very strong visitation. 132,507 visitors and students experienced the Museum in person last year, while over 489,000 unique visitors spent time on our website learning about our programs, stories and collections.

I am also very pleased to be able to share we achieved a 95% visitor satisfaction rate during our annual survey. This means 95% of those surveyed, would highly recommend or recommend to others to come and visit the museum.

(Translated from French)
2019/20 was indeed another remarkable year for the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. The Museum was on track for record visitation numbers. In September, our momentum slowed when we had to close our doors for three days during peak season due to Hurricane Dorian. COVID-19 closed our doors again on March 14th. This second closure caused us, along with the rest of the Museum community, to re-examine how we reach our audience at home (and from home) during a time when they are unable to travel to visit us in person.

I am proud to report that our team acted swiftly in response to the pandemic. Many changes, both short and long term and everlasting were implemented in the weeks and months that followed. Two major projects planned for 2019/20 were close to completion and helped address this need. With the help of two amazing hosts Kim Thuy and Mark Sakamoto, the first season of our podcast was completed to bring our inspiring immigrant stories to new audiences across the country and beyond.

(Translated from French)
I will let them tell you a little more about the podcast.

Mark Sakamoto, Author

Hi, I'm Mark Sakamoto. I'm the host of Countless Journeys. I'm a broadcaster, an author, a tech entrepreneur, a daddy and a big fan of the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.

My family's immigration story actually started on the west coast. Ozeki, my great-grandfather, was one of the first Japanese-Canadians to come over from Japan and fish and create a life, and ah, like the folks that walked through Pier 21, um, I think he came with a lot of excitement, and a lot of trepidation. It was a brand new and very different world. But he made a go of it and I think, like most of the folks who walked through Pier 21, made it a better place.

The first season of Countless Journeys, produced by the Museum, is going to connect Canadians to personal stories of immigration, from past to present, from coast to coast. Stories like Dr Tran-Davies, who lives in Alberta and is a physician. She cares for about 1500 patients a year. She came here at the end of the Vietnam War at the age of five, with her siblings and her single mother. Dr Davies, her life came full circle, and she led a group of Albertans that sponsored two Syrian families, at the end of the Syrian War.

These are the kinds of stories of struggle and hope that we really are trying to bring to the fore. I really hope that you tune in and give these stories a listen; they're heart-warming and heart-breaking and full of what really has made Canada what it is.

Listeners can find the podcast on iTunes, Apple Podcasts or for more information.

Kim Thúy, Author

(Translated from French)
My name is Kim Thùy and I am a writer. I was born in Vietnam, and at age ten I left the country with my family by boat. We were "boat peoples" who arrived in Malaysia. We lived about four months in a refugee camp before being selected by Canada. When we arrived, we were sent to Grand Baie, in Quebec, because my parents already spoke French. For my part, I learned French as it is spoken here.

The Countless Journeys podcast allows us to hear the story of many others who arrived here, in Canada. Everyone has a unique story, and a different path that led them here. I was fortunate to record some of them. The story, for instance, of a Lebanese sculptor who arrived in Vancouver, and a love story between two teen correspondents who found each other once again and got married, who now live in New Brunswick and speak Acadian French. Isn’t it beautiful? There is also the love story of two men who met in Toronto.

These stories illustrate the richness of our country, how we built it over time, over a century now, and how it tells our story in return. The Countless Journeys podcast is available on iTunes, so you can listen to it at your leisure. Otherwise, more information is available on

Marie Chapman, CEO

If you haven’t discovered these already, I encourage you to subscribe wherever you find your favourite podcasts. I’m also very pleased to be able to tell you that our second season will be released in Spring 2021.

Last year, members of our team were extremely busy with the final edits of Pier 21: A History. This comprehensive and definitive book is the first history of Pier 21 written by staff, co-published with the Canadian Museum of History and University of Ottawa Press. I’d like to share two short videos by co-author Dr. Jan Raska talking about the book.

Dr. Jan Raska, PhD, Researcher

My name is Jan Raska and I am a Researcher here at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.

Welcome to Pier 21: A History.

Over the next five episodes, we'll touch on what it was like to immigrate to Canada, through this important ocean immigration facility.

While in 2016, we realized that there was a major gap in terms of our knowledge of Pier 21 as a, as a, site of immigration, as a former ocean immigration shed, and we realized that we needed to do more research to come up with a better idea, a better understanding of the experience of, of immigrants coming through the site but also of the people who volunteered and who actually worked here. And so over the course of a few years, my colleague Steve Schwinghamer and I visited different archival institutions, obviously delved into our own collection as well and looked at some of the oral histories and archival documents and stories that we have here at the Museum and we realized that there was a vast and rich story that needed to be told and brought to Canadians.

I think what surprised me the most was the diversity of voices. Often times we hear that there's an official narrative in terms of how people come to Canada, what their arrival experience is like and by looking at, for example, oral histories or stories within our collection, we soon realized that everybody's experience of coming to Canada is quite unique and in a lot of cases, their actual account or their experience of coming to Canada, upends or problematizes what we know officially of the Canadian immigration experience.

So I picked this particular reading because I wanted to give people an insight in terms of the personal connections to this former immigration facility.

"These memories of Pier 21 are wide-ranging; the ship's arrival, the assembly room, the small baggage check, the confiscated goods, the Canadian food, boarding the train and the waiting, uncertainty and anticipation."

"For Canadian soldiers going to war in Europe and for the families of those who did not come back, Pier 21 hosts a completely different set of memories. We know of these divergent memories from written testimonials, oral history interviews and information derived from personal objects. Together they form a key component of this work. We hope to give these memories better context by developing a deeper picture of the history of Pier 21 as a place."

(Translated from French)
Individuals who were detained at Pier 21 over the holidays often times tried to hold Christmas parties, put on plays, dress up as Santa Claus and present gifts to the kids and so, they tried to make, ah, a very difficult situation one that was festive and joyous for everyone involved.

Even though they didn't necessarily know when they would be permitted to continue their on journey across Canada.

So now I'd like to read a passage of what it was like to spend the holidays in detention here at Pier 21. In December of 1948, a group of Baltic refugees who had come aboard the SS Walnut, spent several weeks in detention well into New Year's and so I'd like to read now is what their experiences were like.

"Detainees used the recreation area to stage entertainment if they were there over the holiday, as did the passengers of the SS Walnut during the Christmas season in 1948. 14 year old Hans Leppik recalls 'We had Christmas parties. The Salvation Army, I remember, brought presents and it was good, for a child. Other than the Christmas parties and that, everybody was happy that we made it and looking forward to going on from there and getting jobs.

This next passage describes what it was like to spend Christmas holidays in detention at Pier 21 for a special group of refugees, those who came from Cuba in the 1960s.

During the winter of 1964, the Cuban refugees, Canadian Immigration officers and voluntary aide agencies came together to create a traditional Cuban Christmas celebration for all the children in detention. Attendees constructed an altar out of egg crates, covered with a white tablecloth from the kitchen and decorated a Christmas tree for the occasion. The Cuban refugees held a Christmas party with a dinner and gifts for all in attendance, which consisted of approximately 14 children and 24 wives. Santa Claus also made an appearance, played by one of the refugees, so that the children could understand him in their Spanish mother tongue.

Marie Chapman, CEO

(Translated from French)
Last year our temporary exhibitions and public programs were again instrumental in connecting Canadians with our immigration history. The Museum’s current travelling exhibition Refuge Canada presented by TD Bank Group helped extend our reach even further across the country. Beginning its national tour in Brampton, Ontario it has since traveled to Medicine Hat, Alberta and Nanaimo, BC.

While we were sending our exhibit to the west coast, the west coast was coming east. In partnership with the Royal BC Museum, Family Bonds & Belonging presented by Scotiabank, was installed in the Ralph and Rose Chiodo Gallery from March until November 2019. This popular exhibition asked “what makes a family?”

Some significant local content was added to the exhibition for its Halifax installation to help answer this question. This included photos from Africville, a beadwork jacket worn by the Grand Chief of the Mi’kmaq nation. John Noel in the late 1880s, a profile of the Nova Scotia Cricket team looking at family by choice, as well as more immigration related content such as visitor-favourite, the story of family member Sugar the dog who immigrated to Canada with his family from the Philippines.

Last year, we also created an exhibition in partnership with the Jamaican Cultural Association of Nova Scotia. Hosted in Mirella and Lino Saputo Hall, this Community Presents project, Jamaican-Nova Scotian Connections, celebrated the oldest Jamaican community in Canada. And I can tell you we celebrated that night with the community. There was dancing, beautiful stories and we really enjoyed the time and fellowship together at the Museum.

(Translated from French)
Our public programs were attended by over 12,500 people. They included our Diversity Spotlight film series, special celebrations for Diwali, Lunar New Year and Canada day. We also partnered with Neptune Theatre to celebrate the sold-out return of the internationally acclaimed play by Hannah Moscovitch Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story inspired in part by a visit to the Museum and a discovery at the Scotiabank Family History Centre.

In February our Canada’s Storytellers series welcomed back author Esi Edygen to talk about her best-selling, award-winning novel Washington Black

Holocaust survivors Pinchas Gutter and Sol Nayman shared their experiences with students and the public during 2019’s Holocaust Education Week.

It was harrowing to hear Pinchas recount with his photographic memory the details of a ten year old boy being separated from his family forever and his terrifying ordeal that followed. After living in many countries around the world, Pinchas finally traveled to Canada. In describing his first visit to Toronto he said, “I had never thought about living in Canada, but when I walked around the city, I felt such a freedom with every breath I took. It was the most humane place I’d ever been. This is a magnificent place to live I thought and decided we should move here.” And move here he did.

Just one of the countless journeys that we honour at the Museum.

I should tell you that was also an incredibly memorable day for me at the Museum. And there are many of them, but Holocaust Education Week always bring to us remarkable stories and you can hear a pin drop when the students listen to them. It is really amazing.

Connecting Canadians to these stories is an ongoing and evolving process. Starting next week, renovations will begin on one of our exhibitions. The planning and design for this project has been underway for several years and this winter the Museum will close to the public to complete the work. It is actually taking place in the Canadian Immigation Hall which is where I am sitting right now talking to you.

I invite you to return to the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 at a time when it is prudent to do so, to enjoy this inspiring, new installation honouring the contributions of immigrants to our culture, economy, and way of life. This and the many other ways we engage with our visitors would not be possible without the support of our donors, partners and the Government of Canada. Thank you. Thank you very much.

This concludes the formal portion of our Annual Public Meeting for 2019/20.

We will now open the floor for questions.

Merci, thank you.