Nova Scotia·Video

Viola Desmond Heritage Minute debuts, honouring the 'Rosa Parks of Canada'

Halifax woman often called "the Rosa Parks of Canada."

Halifax woman became civil rights icon

Nova Scotia civil rights icon Viola Desmond is being honoured in a new way.

She's the subject of the latest Heritage Minute, just released by Historica Canada. 

Often called "the Rosa Parks of Canada," in 1946 Desmond refused to leave the "whites only" section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, N.S. 

Desmond was dragged out by police and thrown in jail overnight. For the next 12 hours, she sat upright on the hard jail bench, wearing her white gloves. Desmond was fined $20 and sentenced to 30 days in prison. But she won an appeal in court on a technicality.

Her case generated so much publicity, Nova Scotia was forced to throw out its segregation laws in 1954.

Desmond's arrest came nine years before Rosa Parks' historic protest against racial segregation in the United States. In 1955, the Alabama woman was arrested after she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. 

Desmond died in 1965 at the age of 50.

In 2010, the government of Nova Scotia posthumously pardoned Desmond and apologized to her family.


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