Nova Scotia

Halifax's newest ferry to be named after Viola Desmond

The votes are tallied and the newest Halifax ferry will be named after Nova Scotia civil rights icon Viola Desmond.

Desmond's name wins voting contest, now goes to Transport Canada for final approval

Halifax residents voted for the new ferry to be named after Viola Desmond. Desmond (right) is seen in this photo with her sister, Wanda. (Submitted by Wanda Robson)

The votes are tallied, and the newest Halifax ferry will be named after Nova Scotia civil rights icon Viola Desmond. 

Out of 19,239 votes from the public, Desmond received just under a third. 

Wanda Robson, her sister, was told in advance of Thursday's announcement.

"We're all excited and proud, you know, at the same time," said Robson over the phone from her home in North Sydney. She says she's planning to come to Halifax when the ferry comes into service this summer.

Desmond was born in Halifax and trained as a teacher before entering the beauty business. She ran a barbershop and beauty parlour with her husband on Gottingen Street in Halifax.

'A great example' 

In 1946, she unknowingly took a seat in a section of a New Glasgow movie theatre implicitly for whites only. She was dragged out and thrown in jail for the night

Desmond was fined $20 and an additional $6 in costs. There was also the possibility of a 30-day jail sentence if she didn't pay — but Desmond won an appeal in court. The attention around the case helped put a legal end to segregation in Nova Scotia in 1954.

"I think today people are more, they're getting more knowledge about segregation and racism. A lot of these things that were not hidden, but nobody spoke about it ... It's sort of coming out and some of it has to do with my sister's story of standing up and she is, I guess, an icon and a great example for the young people," Robson said.

The new ferry is being built by A.F. Theriault & Son Ltd. (CBC)

"Seventy years since Viola's visit to that movie theatre, her commitment to civil rights continues to educate and inspire, highlighting how far we have come and reminding us that as individuals and as a community we must continue to advance equality for all," Mayor Mike Savage said in a news release. 

Halifax residents submitted 200 names for the contest in the fall of 2015. Those names were narrowed down to Viola Desmond, Vincent Coleman, Private John Curwin, Major Gavin Rainnie and Ronald Wallace. 

The city opened up the final selection of a name to online voting.

Desmond's name now goes to Transport Canada for consideration and final approval.

With files from Anjuli Patil


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