Finalist for the 2011 Norma Fleck Award for Canadian
"On behalf of the Nova Scotia government, I sincerely apologize
to Mrs. Viola Desmond''s family and to all African Nova Scotians
for the racial discrimination she was subjected to by the justice
system . . . We recognize today that the act for which Viola
Desmond was arrested, was an act of courage, not an offence." -
Darrell Dexter, Premier of Nova Scotia, April 15, 2010
In Nova Scotia, in 1946, an usher in a movie theatre told Viola
Desmond to move from her main floor seat up to the balcony. She
refused to budge. Viola knew she was being asked to move because
she was black. After all, she was the only black person downstairs.
All the other black people were up in the balcony. In no time at
all, the police arrived and took Viola to jail. The next day she
was charged and fined, but she vowed to continue her struggle
against such unfair rules. She refused to accept that being black
meant she couldn''t sit where she wanted.
Viola''s determination gave strength and inspiration to her
community at the time. She is an unsung hero of the North American
struggle against injustice and racial discrimination whose story
deserves to be widely known.
The African Canadian community in Nova Scotia is one of
Canada''s oldest and most established black communities. Despite
their history and contributions to the province the people in this
community have a long experience of racially based injustice.
Like Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks, who many years later, in
1955, refused to give up their bus seats in Alabama, Desmond''s act
of refusal awakened people to the unacceptable nature of racism and
began and process of bringing an end to racial segregation in
An afterword provides a glimpse of African Canadian history.