Nova Scotia civil rights icon Viola Desmond is being added posthumously to Canada’s Walk of Fame, adding to a long list of honours for a woman known as Canada’s Rosa Parks.
“I’m very proud. It’s an honour” said her sister, Wanda Robson, from her home in North Sydney.
“I think of my mom and dad, particularly, how proud they would have been of her. She would have been quietly proud… of herself and our family,”
In 1946, Desmond was arrested for sitting in the whites-only section of a New Glasgow theatre. The businesswoman was forcibly removed, jailed overnight and fined for not paying the one-cent difference in tax between the balcony and main floor tickets.
Not one to let things go, Desmond hired a lawyer to pursue legal action, but her appeal failed.
She eventually moved away from Nova Scotia, attended business college, and died at the age of 50 in 1965.
Robson, 90, is credited for making Desmond’s story more widely known and often visits schools to speak about racial tolerance and equality.
She believes Desmond’s bravery in 1946 resonates with today’s youth and is key to creating a more accepting society.
“I don’t think that the general public would have known about segregation, and it wasn’t just in New Glasgow. It has opened up windows, doors and minds to what has been going on,” she said.
“Young people are not born seeing colour or racist thoughts. They play together, they don’t see it unless it’s planted in their minds. It’s them that I think are going to make a real change. I really hope so.”
Robson’s efforts led to a posthumous free pardon for Desmond in 2010. Since then, Desmond’s image and name have graced everything from a commemorative stamp, to a Halifax Transit ferry, a statutory holiday, at least two streets and a Heritage Minute commercial.
“I’m saving the best for last!” Robson said with a laugh, when asked about the $10 bill.
In 2018, Desmond will be the first Canadian woman to appear on the face of a Canadian banknote when the next $10 bill series goes into circulation.
WATCH: Viola Desmond’s sister honoured by decision to feature her on $10 bill
Robson says Desmond’s family, including her nephews and nieces, plan to attend the Walk of Fame gala on Nov. 15 in Toronto.
The six inductees of this year’s Walk of Fame include Donovan Bailey, Anna Paquin, David Suzuki and Ted Rogers.
Folk music singer Stompin’ Tom Connors, who was born in Saint John and grew up in Skinners Pond, P.E.I., is also being added posthumously.