KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – I figured I pretty well knew all I needed to know about Viola Desmond after all the recent publicity around a new ferry name and the decision to feature her portrait on the new $10 bill.
Well, there is always more to learn about Nova Scotia’s racist past.
One thing I didn’t know (although it’s obvious in retrospect) is that the New Glasgow movie theatre was segregated not because of a whim of the owner, but because of vocal demands from the white community there.
Viola’s arrest occurred in 1946,. Laws that allowed segregation stayed on the books in Nova Scotia until 1954, the year I was born. This is not ancient history.
Many of the recent Viola Desmond retrospectives tend to downplay racism in contemporary Nova Scotia, as if the Viola Desmond story is now behind us, a historic event that the province apologized for, and that should be the end of it. But The Long Road to Justice mostly stays away from that trap.
“There were places you knew not to go because you wouldn’t get service. You were not downtown late in the evening by yourself, if you went you went with a group of people as opposed to being by yourself, those are just things Black folks within this province have always grown up knowing.” Sgt. Craig Smith
I believe this week’s video is worth your precious time, if only for the insightful comments by Viola’s sister, the indomitable Wanda Robson, Sgt. Craig Smith, and especially also professor Constance Backhouse, whose insights are featured throughout.
The film is directed by Brian Murray, and filmed by Dan Mombourquette. Viola Desmond is played by Michelle Lucas.
Check it out.
See also: New book tackles Canada’s racist legacy
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It’s amazing that Viola stood up for her family and friends. My teacher read the chapter book of Viola Desmond. I almost started to cry because it was so so good.
Charity, 10 years old