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Media Release
March 9, 2018
Halifax, NS

Refuge Canada Opens at the
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

Opening March 10, Refuge Canada explores Canada’s place in the global refugee crisis. Through images, soundscapes, first person accounts and artifacts, this powerful exhibition begins “no one wants to be a refugee, anyone could become a refugee.” Moving through major waves of arrival from Second World War era up to present day, Refuge Canada does not shy away from opportunities to portray the darker chapters of history. Hopeful stories of optimism and success are balanced by moving accounts of shattered lives, fear, and examples of Canada’s mixed record in welcoming refugees.

The exhibition will draw visitors through its five themes: Life Before, Fear, Displacement, Refuge and Life in Canada, with hands-on opportunities to connect with the content. Crawl inside a UNHCR tent, or find room in an inflatable boat similar to those used by refugees fleeing from Turkey to Greece. Look out a plane window as the shores of Canada approach and listen to refugees tell their stories throughout the exhibit. Refuge Canada will challenge and inspire as it brings visitors on a journey from darkness to hope, always calling into question preconceptions about what it means to be a refugee.

As Canadians become increasingly aware of the current global refugee crisis, Refuge Canada is an opportunity to gain historical context. Refuge Canada will remain open until November 11, 2018 before beginning a national tour in 2019. Refuge Canada is supported by The Ralph and Rose Chiodo Family Foundation.

Refuge Canada
March 10 - November 11
Ralph and Rose Chiodo Gallery
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

Quick Facts:

  • Refuge Canada features case studies from major waves of refugees coming to Canada including German Jewish, Hungarian, Southeast Asian, Tamil and Rwandan among others.
  • Drawing on oral histories and quotes from personal accounts, Refuge Canada shares first person experiences. Original artifacts, archival and contemporary images and news footage connects visitors with real refugee experiences.
  • Reva Kanner Dexter lived in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany until she was accepted to come to Canada as a refugee in early 1949. Her family’s story is included in Refuge Canada. Reva is available to the media for interviews about her experience.
  • Artifact of note: Gerhard Herzberg’s original Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1971.
  • Artifact of note: Desk set given c. 1947 by a German family to T.O.F. Herzer, head of the immigration branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway that contains a secret message from a family desperate to leave Germany.
  • Artifact of note: A UNHCR Refugee tent, fully set up and accessible to visitors.
  • Artifact of note: A yellow Star of David badge that Nazi authorities forced Jewish people to wear across occupied Europe, on loan from the Montreal Holocaust Museum.
  • Artifact of note: Inflatable raft similar to those used by refugees fleeing Turkey to Greece.
  • Artifact of note: Doll given to five-year-old Nhung Tran-Davies by a sponsor when she arrived in Canada in 1979. Thirty-nine years later she helped sponsor a Syrian refugee family and gave a doll to their daughter.


“We are humbled to share these stories of people who came to Canada under the most difficult of circumstances. This will be a very moving exhibit for our visitors and we look forward to sharing it with Canadians across this country.” - Marie Chapman, CEO, Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

“Canada has had a mixed record in welcoming refugees, reacting generously to some while overlooking others. Refuge Canada provides the context for Canada’s place in the global refugee crisis and brings to light the challenges faced by refugees in Canada. The exhibition also shares stories of success and contributions made by people who came to Canada as refugees. ” - Dan Conlin, Curator, Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

“A person visiting Refuge Canada will be, no doubt, engaged in understanding the causes and effects of social, political and environmental upheaval which, as history tells is, is the human condition. What this person should keep in mind is that we are experiencing the greatest diaspora of refugees that the world has ever seen. For the refugees, their lives will be changed, some for the better, and some for the worse. To be a true citizen of this planet, it behooves us to document, witness and facilitate these global events with compassion, determination and cooperation.” - Reva Kanner Dexter, included in Refuge Canada, came to Canada as a refugee in 1949


Media Contact

Please contact to set up tours or interviews regarding Refuge Canada, and additional photos of the exhibit.

Beatrice Houston-Gilfoy, Communications Specialist
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
Telephone: (902) 425-7770 ext. 264

About the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 collects, shares and pays tribute to the Canadian immigration story. The Museum is situated in Halifax, Nova Scotia at Pier 21, the National Historic Site that served as the gateway to Canada for one million immigrants between 1928 and 1971. Today, the Museum shares the stories and experiences of all immigrants to Canada, past to present day. The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 enhances public understanding of the experiences of immigrants to Canada, highlights the vital role immigration has played in the building of our country and the contributions of immigrants to Canada’s culture, economy and way of life. It is Canada’s sixth national museum and the only one located in Atlantic Canada.