Viola Desmond


In 1946 Viola was a prominent business woman from Halifax and was passing through New Glasgow, Nova Scotia when her car broke down. She was informed that her car would be repaired the next day, so she booked a hotel room and decided to enjoy a movie.

Viola bought her ticket at the Roseland Theatre and took her seat. She was promptly told she was in the ‘whites only’ section and needed to move. Viola refused. She was then aggressively removed from the theatre, and was forced to spend the night in jail. 

Viola Desmond's experience became one of the earliest high-profile cases of racial discrimination in Canada and, by fighting the charge, she triggered the civil rights movement in Canada.  After the trials in Halifax, Viola closed her business, moved to Montreal and then to New York, where she died at the age of 50. 

Her sacrifice did not go unnoticed. In 2010 Viola Desmond was pardoned by the Government of Canada, and was granted an apology from the Government of Nova Scotia. Recently being given the honour of the first non-Royal woman to appear on a banknote in Canada, we will see her face grace the $10 bill in 2018.