Viola Desmond Designated National Historic Person

Viola Desmond has officially been designated a national historic person by the Government of Canada. The Viola Desmond Chair of Social Justice was notified of the development by Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

“This designation recognizes the importance of Viola Desmond not only as a Canadian civil rights icon but as pioneer Black entrepreneur,” says Graham Reynolds, chair holder of Viola Desmond Chair of Social Justice. “As part of this designation, a historic plaque will be placed in the town of New Glasgow, N.S. This plaque will commemorate Desmond’s act of courage in resisting the practice of racial segregation. It will serve as a permanent reminder of her importance as a national historic person as well as recognizing the significant part Blacks have had in shaping Canadian history.”

In 1946, Viola Desmond was wrongfully arrested for not relinquishing her seat in a racially segregated theatre in New Glasgow, N.S. In 2010, Desmond was given a free pardon and an official apology by Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, Desmond passed away in 1965 and the apology was received by her sister, Wanda Robson, on her behalf.

With the work of the chair and efforts of CBU graduate Wanda Robson, the story of Viola Desmond has been added to the academic curriculum. From September to November 2017, Facebook live classes were offered to educate interested individuals on the story of Desmond. The classes can be viewed by visiting the CBU Facebook page under videos. Recognizing Desmond as a national historic person solidifies the fact that she brought African Nova Scotia’s and Canadians together in a time of injustice, which would help towards ending discrimination.

“I am very proud to recognize some of the people, places, and events that have shaped our country,” says McKenna. One of these people is Viola Desmond. The Historic Sites and Monuments Board advises Mckenna regarding the national historic significance of the designations. Since 1919, 2000 designations have been made.

In 2018 Desmond will be honored on a newly released $10 banknote, she will be the first women, besides the queen, to be shown on the national currency.

Visit the Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice webpage to learn more.