Montreal to name new street after Nova Scotia’s Viola Desmond

Viola Desmond poses for a portrait in 1940. Handout

Continuing the list of recognitions for Nova Scotia’s Viola Desmond, Montreal is planning to name a street in an undeveloped section of land between LaSalle and Verdun after the woman often described as Canada’s Rosa Parks.

“It’s wonderful, isn’t it? I’m so proud and excited,” said Wanda Robson, Parks’ sister, from her home in North Sydney.

Robson received the news when a letter recently arrived at her home in Nova Scotia.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia’s segregated history comes alive in Halifax cemetery

She told Global News she wasn’t expecting news about her sister to come from Montreal.

“My thought at the time was that I wished my mom and dad were here to see all that’s going on,” Robson said.

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The naming of the land after Desmond is the next in a long list of recognizing the woman who, in 1946, made a decision to sit in a whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre. On Nov. 8 of that year, she attended a movie at New Glasgow’s Roseland Theatre and when the manager informed she was sitting in an area for white patrons only, she refused to leave. She was forcibly removed by a police officer, spent the night in jail and faced a criminal charge for not paying a tax of three cents for a downstairs ticket.

Desmond was eventually convicted and had to pay a $20 fine and $6 in other costs.  She later made two unsuccessful applications for appeal to Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

Desmond died in 1965.

READ MORE: Who is Viola Desmond? The first Canadian woman to grace front of banknote

She was posthumously pardoned in April 2010, when it was recognized that she was convicted in error. She was given an official — but posthumous — apology.

Since then, Desmond has been recognized in many ways: in 2015, Nova Scotia made the third Monday in February Nova Scotia Heritage Day, honouring Desmond. She has also been honoured in a Heritage Minute, one of Halifax’s newest ferries was named after her and she will be the first Canadian woman to be celebrated on a regular circulating banknote which is set to be released next year.

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A new street in the future Parks at West Bedford development in Halifax will also be named after her.

Even with all this recognition, Robson said the latest news is still a surprise.

“I thought that going from the pardon, that would be it,” she said. “But now there’s the bill, the ferry and the streets. It’s mind blowing when you think of it. She’ll go down in history, it’s hard to believe.”

Robson said Montreal has been like a second home. Her siblings moved to the city to look for work and she has visited frequently. She was also in the city for a series of speaking engagements during Black History Month in February. She said she signed the guest book at city hall and met with Mayor Denis Coderre.

No completion date has been given. The land is located nine kilometres west of the city centre.

— With files from Richard Dooley, Global News

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