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

Just Posted

Adrian Moyls is the Selkirk College Class of 2021 valedictorian and graduate of the School of Health and Human Services. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College valedictorian proves mettle in accomplishment

Adrian Moyls is a graduate of the School of Health and Human Services

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

Author John Vaillant joins Lisa Moore and Fred Wah for Elephant Mountain Literary Festival’s Alumni Reading on Friday, July 9. All three authors were featured at the inaugural festival in 2012. Photo: Submitted
FESTIVAL TALES: When 2012 meets 2021

The Elephant Mountain Literary Festival will include authors from the event’s inaugural year

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Most Read