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by Jan Raska, PhD, Researcher

Time 0:03:49


This video is only available in French; the transcript has been translated from French

Welcome to the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Today, we’re inside the Canadian Immigration Hall – one of two halls that make-up our newly expanded Permanent Exhibit. Beside me is the bilingual Customs interactive where you’ll have the opportunity to select a number of items that they wish to bring with them to Canada. You can choose from three scenarios:

1. James MacDonald, 23, Glasgow (Scotland, United Kingdom)
Occupation: Agriculturalist, local merchant
Date of Arrival: 22 March 1930

2. Jan Nowak, 35, Krakow (Poland)
Occupation: Factory worker / manual labourer
Date of Arrival: 20 June 1949

3. Giovanna Rossi, 43, Castrofilippo (Sicily, Italy)
Occupation: Agricultural labourer, farm housewife
Date of Arrival: 24 November 1954

Pan to Pier 21 Gallery / Customs Interactive / Hand using touchscreen

Canadian customs officials have the responsibility to screen each visitor’s baggage to determine what items are permissible in Canada and to prevent the entry of dangerous, prohibited and contraband items.

As an immigrant at Pier 21, you’ll have the opportunity to bring a diverse amount of goods into the country. You’ll get to choose from a list of goods in which some items are contraband, for example, meats, while others are dutiable, for example, liquor and cigarettes. If you try to bring excess amounts of goods into Canada and refused to pay the appropriate duty or cannot do so, your items will be seized.

An important factor in the confiscation of immigrant’s items upon arrival at Pier 21 was official discretion. Large quantities of items such as olive oil or currency that were not considered contraband or prohibited could be deemed ‘suspicious’ and confiscated by a customs official who sought to determine if these items were hiding contraband.

Common questions asked by Canadian customs officers included:

Do you have anything to declare?
What is your length of residence in Canada?
Do you have relatives or financial means to support your stay in Canada?
Are you visiting Canada for pleasure?
Do you have employment in Canada?
Do you have any business in Canada?
Are you a British subject? US citizen? Are you a Canadian citizen? Are you a resident of Canada?
Where are you travelling from? What is your final destination? Are you travelling with others or alone?
Are you travelling with any food, plants, meats, alcohol, tobacco or any other dutiable or contraband items?

Do you have anything to declare?

Thanks for stopping by today. Come and visit our new Permanent Exhibit, here at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.