From 1867 to 1914, the Canadian West opened for mass settlement, and became home to millions of immigrant settlers seeking a new life. This immigration boom created key industries still important to Canada’s international role – like agriculture, mining, and oil. The Prairie Provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta grew rapidly in these years as settlers began to transform the barren prairie flatland and establish unique cultural settlements. Many motivations brought immigrants to Canada: greater economic opportunity and improved quality of life, an escape from oppression and persecution, and opportunities and adventures presented to desirable immigrant groups by Canadian immigration agencies. By examining these motivations, an understanding of Prairie immigration experiences and settlement patterns evolves in interesting ways.

Historian Steven Schwinghamer maintains that public expertise operates in historic sites, including Pier 21, in deep and important ways, whether it is engaged by the institution or not. Creating an open exchange between visitors and the institution will enable the institution to learn from their visitors’ organic knowledge of the past.

Since 1869, Canada has had laws and regulations governing the admission of immigrants. Immigration legislation has evolved and changed over time, shaped by the shifting social, political and economic climate, as well as dominant beliefs about race, desirability and integration. The open-door approach of the late nineteenth century gradually gave way to more restrictive measures that discriminated on the basis of race, ethnicity and national origin. Overt discrimination remained a part of Canadian immigration policy until the latter half of the twentieth century, when skill and education became the main criteria for determining entrance into Canada. Since Canada’s adoption of multiculturalism as an official policy in 1971, the cultural diversity of Canadian immigrants has been promoted as a key component of Canadian identity. Immigration legislation is ultimately a reflection of society’s beliefs and attitudes, revealing Canada’s history of inclusion and exclusion.

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