On July 1, Canada turns 142 years old. That same day, Pier 21 celebrates its 10th anniversary as "Canada's immigration museum."
At the museum, the holiday begins with an official citizenship ceremony at 10am, harkening back to the pier's important history as a threshold---an entry point for one million Canadians, according to the museum's website, pier21.ca. Between 1928 and 1971, people emigrated from around the world and immigrated to Canada by sea. (At what point does one exchange labels, emigrant for immigrant? More than likely, one always wears both.) Of course, people come by air now. The journey may be faster, but it's no less fraught, surely. Following the swearing-in, the annual Multicultural Village Fair takes place between 11am and 3pm, with live entertainment, crafts, activities and prizes awarded.
After the fair, a film: the NFB documentary Twelve. Filmmaker Lester Alfonso searches for a way to understand his own transplantation to Canada from the Philippines as a 12-year-old by finding a dozen others who also came to Canada at age 12. How did each adapt to this immense experience, especially at such a pivotal moment in life? How do their stories diverge and connect? Many of us faced going to new schools in adolescence. Imagine what it must be like going to a new country.
Finally, two travelling exhibitions continue their run (until September 7) at Pier 21. They're travelling in the sense that the shows originated from elsewhere and they chronicle two movements in Canadian history and the formation of this country's identity. The two are The Canoe: A Canadian Cultural Icon, created by The Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario, and Acres of Dreams: Settling the Canadian Prairies, a collaboration of the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa and Library and Archives of Canada to mark the centennials of Saskatchewan and Alberta in 2005. Besides the visual chronicle, exhibitions like this invite critical reading and debate, which is why we need museums today and always.