SPEECH – PIER 21 - JULY 1ST, 1999
Let me start by saying that these past 2 days have been very historical and emotional for me. It is through Pier 21 that as a little boy, in 1955, began my new life in this beautiful country.
I was born in a small “paese” in Italy called Montelongo. Our family was very, very poor and the effect of the World War II left our village in ruins and desolation. We were so poor that our mother wrapped our feet with cloth to enable us to walk in the snow in the winter season because we could not afford boots.
My parents were farming people and worked extremely hard in trying to rebuild our life after the war.
During this time, Canada was inviting immigrants to come and live in a land of unlimited opportunities for hard-working people. Needless to say, my parents accepted the challenge and decided to come to Canada.
My dad, my 2 brothers and my oldest sister had immigrated in early 1950’s through Pier 21. My mom, my younger sister and I followed afterwards on February 12, 1955.
Our journey from Naples to Halifax was stormy and gray. Huge waves would rock the Greek ship during the trip.
I remember vividly, as our ship approached the Bay of Halifax, how excited we were to reach our port of destination and at last meet with the rest of our family. Our ship anchored for 2 to 3 hours and finally 2 tug boats escorted us to Pier 21. After Customs verification, we were to board a train to Montréal.
Once inside Pier 21, I tightly held my mother’s hand as I stared all around the Pier with fear and confusion in my heart. I asked her, “Mamma, where are we?” and she replied, “Figlio mio, this is Canada, a country where flows milk and honey. Here, we will be able to build a good future and live our dreams.”
As usual, Mamma was right. Canada has offered me a better quality of life, a good education and a great career as a manager with a major Canadian company.
Today, I wish to thank Petro-Canada for allowing me to relive these precious and indescribable memories of my new beginning as I passed through Pier 21.
Special thanks to Mrs. Ruth Goldbloom and the Society for having revived the spirit of Pier 21. It is my desire that through your works, the voice of Pier 21 will reach the ears of every Canadian across the land in the years to come.
Last but not least, today on Canada Day, our birthday, I stand as a proud Canadian, along with millions of immigrants, in saying “Thank you, Pier 21, for having open your doors to us to this grand country Canada.”
Happy birthday, Canada!
Rocco Di Paolo