OTTAWA, November 8, 2021
Seventy-five years ago today, African-Nova Scotian businesswoman Viola Desmond refused to leave a whites-only seating area of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. She was forcibly removed from the theatre by police, arrested and charged. She later refused to accept the charges against her and took her case to Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court, where she lost her appeal.
Today, we remember her extraordinary act of courage in the struggle for racial equality, which led to the end of segregation in Nova Scotia and helped strengthen the modern civil rights movement in Canada. We are also reminded of the resilience, perseverance and leadership of Black Canadians throughout our history.
Although much progress has been made to ensure an equitable future for all, Black Canadians and their communities continue to face prejudice, discrimination and longstanding disparities in accessing education, housing, healthcare and employment. Today, we have an opportunity to reflect on Viola Desmond’s legacy and acknowledge that work must be done to combat all forms of racism, hate and discrimination.
As Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, I encourage all Canadians to learn more about Viola Desmond’s significant role in Canada’s civil rights movement. As we continue her work to combat systemic anti-Black racism in our society, it is important to consider how we can all play a role in building a more equitable and inclusive Canada for everyone.