Desmond was found guilty of tax evasion after she challenged racial segregation at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow on Nov. 8, 1946. She was given a posthumous apology by Nova Scotia in 2010.

Desmond was found guilty of tax evasion after she challenged racial segregation at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow on Nov. 8, 1946. She was given a posthumous apology by Nova Scotia in 2010.

Nova Scotia symbolically repays Viola Desmond’s $26 fine from 1946 theatre protest

An official cheque for the original $26 fine will be displayed at the Nova Scotia legislature

Viola Desmond’s $26 fine and court costs have been repaid by Nova Scotia, nearly 75 years after the civil rights pioneer was arrested for refusing to leave the whites only section of a movie theatre.

Desmond’s interest-adjusted fine is estimated at $368.29 but the province topped it up to $1,000 and presented the money to her sister Wanda Robson during a virtual ceremony on Wednesday.

The idea to repay the fine originated from Varishini Deochand, a student from Vaughan, Ont., who asked the province to consider the symbolic reimbursement after learning about Desmond’s story.

“Upon realizing that this fine was not repaid I wrote a letter to the Honourable (Premier) Stephen McNeil addressing something meagre, yet paramount in fostering a more just society,” Deochand said during the event. “I strongly hold that one should not pay a fine for a crime they did not commit.”

Desmond was found guilty of tax evasion after she challenged racial segregation at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow on Nov. 8, 1946. She was given a posthumous apology and pardon by Nova Scotia in 2010.

McNeil thanked Deochand and said her request was “insightful” and “driven by a desire for social justice.”

READ MORE: O’Ree’s hockey stick reminds Trudeau daily of the work needed to combat racism

The premier described Desmond’s story as one of aspiration, activism and determination, adding that she was a trailblazer who continues to influence people. “We must continue to acknowledge and recognize the incredible people of African descent like Viola, who have made a significant contribution to our society,” McNeil said.

He said an official cheque for the original $26 fine will be displayed at the Nova Scotia legislature along with Desmond’s pardon certificate.

Desmond’s act of courage came nearly a decade before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Alabama.

A resident of Halifax, the beautician and entrepreneur who sold her own line of cosmetics was headed to Sydney, N.S., when her car broke down. Stranded in New Glasgow overnight, Desmond decided to go to the local theatre to watch a movie.

The Roseland Theatre, however, was segregated at that time, with black patrons relegated to the balcony while floor seating was reserved for whites.

The short-sighted Desmond sat in the floor section in order to see properly and when she refused to leave she was dragged from the theatre by police. She was arrested and left in jail for 12 hours before being fined.

Desmond died in 1965 and although her story received little attention for several decades, her stature has grown through a number of tributes in recent years. She has been featured on a stamp, a Halifax harbour ferry is named after her, while a Toronto park and streets in Montreal and New Glasgow bear her name.

READ MORE: BC Place to light up with special display for Black History Month

In 2017, she was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame and in November 2018, a new $10 bill bearing her likeness was put into circulation. Desmond became the first black person — and the first non-Royal woman — on a regularly circulating Canadian banknote.

Robson said the growing recognition of her sister has been “overwhelming.”

“Particularly the letter to the premier from Varishini,” she said. “She sounds like the future and there will be thousands behind her raising the torch of justice and freedom.”

Black History Month

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

.
COVID-19 cases increasing again in Fraser Health

Fraser North is seeing the greatest growth, Fraser East also heading up

Peter Flynn sits at the piano at a Christmas concert. Flynn retired at the end of 2020 and sat down with The Standard to reflect on his long career in the Hope area. (Photo/Peter Flynn)
EXTENDED INTERVIEW: Coquihalla’s longtime elementary school teacher retires

Peter Flynn reflects on decades as a teacher in Hope, teaching at school he went to as a child

Two teens were sent to hospital after being stabbed Saturday evening. (Shane MacKichan photo)
Two teens stabbed in Abbotsford

20-year-old man has been detained

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Feb. 28

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Judith Uwamahoro is Black, approximately 4’7″ tall, 80 pounds and has short black hair and brown eyes. (Surrey RCMP handout)
UPDATED: Lower Mainland 9-year-old located after police make public plea

Judith Uwamahoro went missing Friday at around 4 p.m. in Surrey

Five-year-old Nancy Murphy wears a full mask and face shield as she waits in line for her kindergarten class to enter school during the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Variant of concern linked to COVID-19 outbreak at three Surrey schools

Cases appear to be linked to community transmissions, but schools will remain open

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Most Read