I had just finished and posted my final chapter in the series “Going Indie,” and noticed I had about an hour to get to downtown Halifax and have another attempt at a scene I wanted for a 2016 calendar project.
It is now two days later, and it’s Canada Day. I arose early and started working on the files from that shoot. Quite ironically it dawned on me, given the day, the significance of the image that appeared on my monitors: “The Emigrant.” This incredibly detailed monument stands guard at the confluence of Pier 21 and the Halifax Harbourwalk, where millions of immigrants first stepped on Canadian soil. Many then made their way across the street to the Canadian National rail station to continue their quest in search of something better than they left behind.
This story is told at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, and is well worth a visit if in Halifax. If visiting I would highly recommend you join a tour offered by one of the many well-informed guides—some of whom are immigrants who actually landed at the very site they now speak of.
As I was waiting for the correct light balance between ambient and the spot light illuminating the artwork, I had the opportunity to study the detail. It shows a man coming to a New World in search of a better life for his family that he is leaving behind in the Old Country. Presumably his wife and mother of their two children will be joining him once he is established. Will he stay in Halifax or board the train west? Does our immigrant seek industrial work in Ontario or agricultural pursuits in the Prairie provinces? Regardless of where he settles it becomes his new home—and the soon-to-be home of his family and their descendants.
I have been rather fortunate in my career to have travelled the planet and have been on all continents with the exception of Antarctica. I have seen much in those travels: poverty, hunger, corruption, abuse, and more. Each time I returned home, it was to a realization that we Canadians are one of the most fortunate people in the world.
Despite all our wrinkles, I firmly believe Canada is one of the best countries on the planet to call home. Yes, as a nation we have challenges. However, we would do well to remind ourselves of the positives: we have a social network that ensures no one starves to death, we have a national medical care program that ensures every Canadian is afforded world-class health care, we have access to education regardless of gender or station in life, and the list could continue. In Canada we are assured the opportunity to follow our dreams and do whatever with our lives that we wish—in my mind, this is priceless.
Thank you to artist Armando Barbon, who graciously designed, sculpted and donated this bronze and marble monument to the Halifax Port Authority. Perhaps the artist himself summed it best when he was on hand for the unveiling on September 19, 2013: “With this sculpture, I wanted to say ‘Thank You’ to the country that has been my home for the past 48 years. Every day, I feel blessed to be here, and I hope with this sculpture I am able to express the sense of hope and opportunity many new Canadians feel.”
The final installment of Going Indie will have to be re-scheduled to next week. Canada Day is a day to reflect on just how fortunate we are. It is also a time to reinforce that we should never underestimate the sweat and toil our forefather immigrants left on the land as they chiseled this great country from the water, granite and boreal forests.
Please, let us not take their sacrifices for granted.
Happy birthday, Canada.