Shelburne Council wants new February holiday named after Viola Desmond

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Several years ago, Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp in Viola Desmond’s honour.

File photo

The Town of Shelburne has added its voice to a growing chorus that wants the province to name a new Nova Scotia February holiday after Viola Desmond.

In making the motion to send the recommendation to the province, Councillor Roy O’Donnell highlighted Desmond’s courageous act against segregation. The black Halifax businesswoman was wrongfully arrested in November 1946 after she refused to give up her seat in the racially segregated Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow.

Councillor O’Donnell also pointed out in his motion the February holiday would fall during African Heritage Month

On Jan. 21, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality also unanimously endorsed a proposal to name the new February holiday Viola Desmond Day.

Several years ago, Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp in her honour and when the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg officially opens its doors later this year, it will present to the public a permanent exhibit highlighting the Viola Desmond incident as an inspiring Canadian story of courage.

In April 2010, the government of Nova Scotia granted, posthumously, a free pardon to Viola Desmond and it offered an official apology to her family as well as to all members of the African Nova Scotian community.

The province introduced legislation on Dec. 5 to create a statutory holiday on the third Monday in February, beginning in 2015.

In a news release at the time, the province said it would ask young Nova Scotians to help decide what the new holiday should be called.

Organizations: Shelburne Council, Roseland Theatre, Canada Post Canadian Museum of Human Rights African Nova Scotian

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Shelburne, New Glasgow Winnipeg

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