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After the Second World War, Canadian military authorities helped to permanently resettle a unique movement of ‘preferred’ immigration to Canada: nearly 44,000 war brides and their 22,000 children. They represent the single largest contiguous movement of migration to Canada, specifically through Pier 21. The war brides arrived in Canada at a time when the country’s doors remained largely closed to immigrants, due in part to the economic effects of the Great Depression .

In August 1968, Soviet-led forces invaded Czechoslovakia to suppress a period of reform known as the Prague Spring. Thousands of Czechs and Slovaks already travelling outside of their country were joined by compatriots fleeing the invasion. The Canadian government implemented a special program that relaxed immigration criteria and helped with travel to Canada. Within four months, close to 12,000 Czech and Slovak refugees arrived to various ports of entry in Canada, including Pier 21.

Some of the earliest European agricultural settlers in Canada’s Prairie West were Russian Mennonites. Two disparate political events provided a crucial framework for this movement. In 1870, Tsarist Russia overturned the guarantees and privileges originally granted to the Mennonite settlers, and in that same year, Canada purchased Rupert’s Land and began seeking group settlers to help colonize the territory.[1] The situation in Russia led many Mennonites to consider leaving Russia, and delegates visited both Canada and the United States to appraise the land available for settlement. As a result, about 7500 Mennonites arrived in Manitoba during the 1870s.[2] This movement to Manitoba is notable for scale and for its establishment of a formal and direct relationship with the federal government as a condition of settlement, an agreement called the Privilegium.

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