By Ryan Melanson
There was a celebratory feeling at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax on July 12, as members and friends of Nova Scotia’s Kosovar community gathered to mark 20 years since their arrival in Canada. The scene included friends laughing and catching up, energetic children running around, and culture being shared through art and live performance.
This would have all been hard to imagine when more than 5,000 refugees arrived in Canada in 1999 as part of Operation PARASOL. Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian population was being violently forced from their homes during a brutal civil war, and many of those airlifted to Canada had lost everything.
“Operation PARASOL did indeed open up a parasol of hope for thousands of our people who watched their lives go up in flames. They were given a chance to start over,” said Lulzim Hiseni, Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo in Canada.
He added that the 20th anniversary gathering, organized by Pier 21 and the Kosovar Embassy in Ottawa, was intended as both a celebration of the successful lives former refugees have built in Canada, and as a thank you to the Canadian government agencies and hard-working individuals who supported the resettlement in 1999.
Along with many of the former refugee families and plenty of Canadian-born children who now call Nova Scotia home, the event was attended by a number of former public servants, medical professionals and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members who supported Op…