Timeline – Viola Desmond’s Legacy

The following timeline highlights the accomplishments and milestones of those who have fought for social justice and human rights in Viola Desmond’s name.


Colour CodedA Legal History of Racism in Canada 1900-1950 by Dr. Constance Backhouse. The book’s chapter on Viola Desmond outlines the story of Desmond’s arrest and trial in New Glasgow, N.S.  The publication generated national media attention for the Viola Desmond case.

 January 2004

Viola Desmond was honoured at Nova Scotia Mass Choir’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Concert at Alderney Landing Theatre Auditorium.

 February 2004

CBC Radio presentation of Witness a dramatic monologue on Viola Desmond by David Woods performed by actress Jackie Richardson with music by Joe Sealy.


Wanda Robson’s debut performance as a storyteller with David Woods’ Voices Black Theatre Ensemble. She begins writing and performing stories of the Davis family and her sister Viola Desmond and delivering school presentations with Voices.


Inaugural presentation of Viola Desmond Day celebration at Ryerson University, Toronto. The event raised awareness of the diverse and little-known stories and contributions of past and present Women of African descent in Canada.


Wanda Robson writes to then mayor of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, requesting the overturning of her sister’s wrongful 1946 conviction for tax evasion.

 Roseland Theatre, New Glasgow c.1946  Photo source: The News (New Glasgow) published Feb 13, 2015)

April 15, 2010

The Honourable Mayann Francis, the 31st Lieutenant Governor for Nova Scotia invoked Royal Prerogative and granted Viola Desmond a Free Mercy Pardon, indicating that her 1946 conviction was a miscarriage of justice

Signing of Free Mercy Pardon, Province House, NS, April 15, 2010. Photo source: Paul Darrow, Globe And Mail

August 11, 2010

Publication Sister to Courage: Stories from the World of Viola Desmond, Canada’s Rosa Parks by Wanda Robson, Breton Books


The Viola Desmond Chair of Social Justice is established at Cape Breton University, Sydney NS, Canada. Dr. Graham Reynolds, a history and sociology professor at CBU is appointed Endowed Professor of the Chair.

September 2011

Long Road to Justice: The Viola Desmond Story documentary film released

September 10, 2011

Publication Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged by Jody Nyasha Warner House of Anansi.

February 2012

Viola Desmond official stamp released by Canada Post

December 19, 2014

Announcement of the Viola Desmond Song Contest sponsored by the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage in partnership with Music Nova Scotia

February 2, 2016

Viola Desmond Heritage Minute produced by Historica Canada

 February 8, 2012

Other People’s Heaven: The Viola Desmond Story a play by Beau Dixon Firebrand Theatre tours Nova Scotia

February 15, 2015

Nova Scotia names its first Heritage Day public holiday, Viola Desmond Day

March 2016

Publication of Viola Desmond’s CanadaA History of Blacks and Racial Segregation in the Promised Land (Fernwood Publishing) by Viola Desmond Chair Dr. Graham Reynolds and Wanda Robson. Winner of the Robbie Robertson Dartmouth Book Award for Non-Fiction, 2017 Atlantic Book Awards

July 2016

Launch of Viola Desmond ferry, Halifax, N.S

Photo – Viola Desmond Ferry, launched July 7, 2016  Nathan Green Square Halifax Photo Source: Cynthia Maillet, Radio-Canada

December 2016

Bank of Canada announces the selection of Viola Desmond as the new face of the Canadian $10 bill


Viola Desmond Way – walkway beside the former site of the Roseland Theatre named in Viola Desmond’s honour in New Glasgow, N.S.

May 2017

Montreal, QC names street, Rue Viola Desmond, after Viola Desmond

November 2018

The Viola Desmond $10 dollar bill begins public circulation


Viola Desmond Public School, Halton District School Board, Burlington, Ont.


Hubfield Park, Malvern, Toronto is renamed Viola Desmond Park

February 2019

Viola Desmond $20 commemorative silver coin released by Royal Canadian Mint.