Friday, April 16, 2010

After 64 years, Viola Desmond (Canada’s Rosa Parks), is finally pardoned for her "crime"

"Viola Desmond was a successful businesswoman, a beautician, and a pillar of her community in 1940s Halifax [Nova Scotia, Canada]. But none of that mattered on a cold afternoon in New Glasgow, in 1946. Then all that mattered was that Viola Desmond was black, and she was refusing to give up her seat in the white section of a segregated theatre." (CBC)

Metro's Paul McLeod reports:
Sixty-four years after Viola Desmond was jailed for sitting in a whites-only section of a movie theatre, people gathered in Halifax Thursday to officially pardon “Canada’s Rosa Parks” and celebrate her as a hero.

It was the first free pardon in the history of Nova Scotia. In Canada, it’s the first time clemency has been awarded posthumously. The declaration marks not just that Desmond was innocent, but that the conviction itself was wrong.

“The arrest, detainment and conviction of Viola Desmond is an example in our history where the law was used to perpetuate racism and racial segregation — this is contrary to the values of Canadian society,” said Premier Darrell Dexter. “On behalf of the province of Nova Scotia, I am sorry.”

Viola Desmond passed away in the 1960s, but her little sister Wanda Robson, now 83, was at the ceremony in the legislature Red Room Thursday. In a graceful speech, she had the packed crowd shifting between laughter and applause as she recounted the long movement to have Desmond pardoned. “It just became my mission,” she explained. “This is what I had to do.”

Robson remembered her sister as a person who did things women at that time just didn’t do. She had a car, she learned to drive, and she had her own business. “She would be so happy. And not only for personal achievement, but for leaving something behind for the young people.”
This is wonderful news.

Bravo to Wanda Robson (Viola's sister) for making this happen!