Rebecca MacKenzie-Hopkins still remembers the first Canadian immigration ceremony she attended. One family of new Canadians "were all wearing their Sunday best, but in red, with red hats. They were ecstatic. They all had flags and were taking photos together," she recalls, smiling. "I can't explain how happy it is. You can't be sad at a citizenship ceremony because everyone is just smiling the whole time."
This feeling of pride and community is something MacKenzie-Hopkins is hoping to bring to the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 this Canada Day. As the public programs manager, she and her staff have been busy putting together a full agenda of events for the country's birthday—including an immigration ceremony open to the public—and focusing on fostering people's connections to the museum and each other.
"We used to do a lot of standard Canada Day things like face-painting, but I wanted to change some of that," she explains. "People can experience the museum for free and try to understand more about Canadian immigration."
That meant completely re-thinking the way the museum celebrates July 1, placing a real emphasis on multiculturalism and community. Along with the immigration ceremony, there will be Cuban music, a Russian/Ukrainian costume presentation and Chinese dancing, bringing a dose of diversity to the dense crowds found on the waterfront over the long weekend.
The hope, MacKenzie-Hopkins explains, is that these performances, many of which were slated to be part of the now-cancelled Multicultural Association of Nova Scotia's Multicultural Festival, will help Haligonians learn about and appreciate the many kinds of Canadians who make up our nation. In addition to the varied stage performers, the museum also plans to have some collaborative art projects that (hopefully) engage guests. Artist Aquil Virani's interactive mural asks visitors to finish the phrase "My Canada..."
Hopkins thinks about how she would answer the phrase, looking out the museum window onto the harbour. "For me it's a very hopeful phrase, because it's like 'This place is mine, this place is all of ours.'" She drums her fingers. "My Canada," she says, pausing, turning from the window. "My Canada is a place where everyone is welcome."
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