Skip to the main content

In February 1998, widespread ethnic conflict in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo led to an outbreak of armed conflict between the forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The conflict saw thousands of ethnic Albanians living in the province in fear of further ethnic cleansing seek refuge in neighbouring Albania and Macedonia. Due to this large movement of people, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) appealed to the international community for political, financial, and logistical support. The UNHCR was concerned for the immediate protection of Kosovars who had sought safety and shelter outside of their homeland. For its part, the Canadian government offered to provide temporary safe haven for 5,000 Kosovar refugees. Once brought to Canada, the refugees would be permitted to apply for permanent resident status. In previous decades, the Canadian government resettled refugees in search of safe haven including some 37,500 Hungarians between 1956 and 1958, over 11,200 Czechs and Slovaks from 1968 to 1969, and approximately 60,000 Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians, between 1979 and 1981. Following these important special programs for refugees, the Kosovar refugee movement set an important precedent: it marked the first time that the Canadian government participated in an emergency humanitarian evacuation program designed to provide temporary protection to vulnerable individuals fleeing from a place of mass exodus.

Until the late 1960s, Chile remained a prosperous and stable Latin American country. Chile attracted immigration from neighbouring countries, Europe, and to lesser extent, Arab states. In the free elections of 1970, Salvador Allende, who led the Unidad Popular (Popular Unity) coalition – a left-wing political alliance comprised of social democrats, socialists, radicals, populists, and communists – came to power. The United States government and its allies viewed Allende’s victory as a threat to Cold War democratic values and American hegemony in Latin America. The Allende government’s implementation of wide-ranging socioeconomic reforms including the nationalization of many foreign companies (mainly American) heightened the concerns of Western officials. Tensions further increased when Chilean authorities attacked the holdings of large landowners in order to correct the unequal distribution of income and concentration of economic resources throughout the country. Some Chileans believed that these early steps would lead the country towards communism.

Halifax harbour is large, deep, and ice-free. It is a natural transportation hub, with river access to inland Nova Scotia, and proximity to efficient shipping routes from Europe to North America. However, before 1876, there was no inland rail link, and so the port was not particularly useful for passenger or cargo service to the rest of Canada.[1] Other ports, notably along the St. Lawrence and in the Great Lakes, had immigration facilities dating back to the 1820s, and were critical to ocean transportation to Canada before the Halifax rail line was complete.[2]

However, in the fifty-year gap between the completion of the railway and the opening of Pier 21 in 1928, many people who arrived by sea in Halifax –with some exceptions—arrived by way of Pier 2 in Halifax’s North End. Over time, there were several quite different arrangements for immigrant reception at Pier 2, from simple adaptations at a cargo pier to spacious and purpose-built quarters.