April 9, 2018 9:32 pm

‘She was brave’: Calgary student wins award for tribute to Canadian civil rights leader

WATCH: A big win for a Calgary high school student; recognition for her work paying tribute to a Canadian civil rights leader. As Gil Tucker shows us, for this student, the subject of racial discrimination hits pretty close to home.

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Fatima Mir Baloch has always been thankful that she was able to move to Canada from Pakistan when she was 12 years old.

Now, she’s enjoying the chance to pay tribute to a Canadian hero, a Nova Scotia woman who became a civil rights leader after being evicted from a movie theatre.

“People don’t even know that we had issues like that, that we had segregation,” Baloch said.

READ MORE: Civil rights activist Viola Desmond honoured with $10 bill, first vertical note in Canada


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Baloch is now a Grade 11 student at Calgary’s Western Canada High School, celebrating her recent win in a national history essay contest run by the federal government.

Baloch was recognized for her essay on Viola Desmond, whose life changed forever when she went to see a movie in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1946.

“(Desmond) took a seat on the main floor that was reserved for whites only,” Baloch said. “The African Canadians were supposed to sit up in the balcony. The police were summoned immediately and she was dragged out, charged and held overnight.”

The incident sparked Desmond’s interest in civil rights issues, and her work in that area has led to her being honoured with a place on Canada’s new 10 dollar bill, to go into circulation later in 2018.

Baloch’s essay on Desmond paid tribute to her courage.

“It shows how one act committed by one person can lead to better change,” Baloch wrote.

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

Her childhood in Pakistan left Baloch eager to see change in certain attitudes there.

“Girls being told they’re only beautiful and successful if they have fair skin,” Baloch said, “It’s heartbreaking.”

She said she’s heartened to see Desmond getting more recognition.

“She plays a part in Canada today,” Baloch said. “My life here is a product of her fight. She was brave.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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