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Welcome to Canada: Watch Your Step

David Gray

David Gray worked as an inspector with the Department of Agriculture at Pier 21. Mr. Gray joined the Department of Agriculture circa 1958 and worked with its Plant Protection Division in Halifax for approximately eight and a half years. During those years, he was often assigned to Pier 21 to inspect and screen cargo and passenger luggage for prohibited agricultural goods and plant materials, working closely with customs officials. He left his position at the department to work as an entomologist in Ottawa.

Click below to hear agricultural inspector David Gray describe his impression of the immigration facilities at Pier 21, specifically the areas in which the immigrants waited to be interviewed and processed.


David: [The interview areas] were just more or less kind of sterile areas. They were just wooden benches. They weren't very colourful, the walls were, you know, just plain walls with no real colour involved. [Pier 21] wasn't the kind of place that I would have expected that Canada would have had to greet the immigrants as a new country they're coming to and so on.

It was very — very sterile and they'd sit there for hours on these long wooden benches waiting to be interviewed and then they'd come across — they'd come out and go down that catwalk and bring their hand baggage. Of course, that's where we'd see them with the hand baggage.

But down below of course the heavy trunks and all the other stuff would be laid out on the floor by name, by alphabetical — I can remember, it would go A, B, right down and then come back the other way. And there would be customs officers stationed all the way along there, and they had these large, big suitcases and trunks sitting there. And there would be olive oil cans and some of them would have holes in them and the olive oil would be running out onto the floor and it would be sticky.

Yeah, the floor was sticky anyway. It was sticky from olive oil from the previous voyages. So, it must have had a quite a layer of olive oil and grime on it. It was just dirty. It was grimy and dirty and the whole building was, you know, like a dungeon in there.


Oral History with David Gray, 25 July 2000 (00.07.25DG)