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A Volunteer Legacy

Word has gotten out that Lynn Brebner and Sylvia Yates are retiring as Museum volunteers after 13 years, and the response from other volunteers and staff has been quick:

“You’re not allowed to leave!”

Volunteers like Lynn and Sylvia are highly valued. They are treasured for their vast knowledge and experience at the Museum, just as volunteers were when Pier 21 operated as an immigration shed.

Between 1928 and 1971, when Pier 21 welcomed one million immigrants, refugees, war brides, evacuee children and displaced persons to Canada, volunteers played a very important role. They came from many different organizations, and worked tirelessly to welcome newcomers, to speak to them in their own languages and often to ensure that they had what they needed to start a successful life in Canada.


Welcome to my first blog here at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21! I’d like to share a bit of our collection with you today. After searching for interesting historical tidbits, I came across a few children’s ship and train menus from the 1940s and 1950s. These menus provide a unique window into how passenger travel evolved after the Second World War.

Today’s companies increasingly cater to younger passengers, aiming to highlight their services and products in hopes of attracting them and their parents. Youth now hold more spending power than they did in previous generations.

In the immediate postwar period, the majority of travel between Europe and Canada was by ship. As air travel became more accessible with increased routes, less time spent in transit and lower fares, passengers turned away from ships and trains.

What is your vision for a culturally diverse and “integrated” community?

For the past decade the buzz word “integration” has anchored Canadian immigration discourse. Policy analysts, academics, immigrant settlement workers, newcomers and community members use the word “integration” to describe the ultimate goal of immigration and settlement. Yet, despite the term’s prevalence, there tend to be many different views on what “integration” means, in definition as well as in practice.

Certainly, in the post-Trudeau era of multiculturalism, use of the term “integration” reflects a shift in Canadian values. This shift represents a departure from an “assimilist” past towards an appreciation of cultural diversity and an emphasis on encouraging active citizenship and community membership of newcomers to Canada. However, some argue that “integration” is simply a semantic replacement for “assimilation,” with very little actually changing on the ground in terms of settlement experiences of newcomers to Canada.