This week, however, there is an added bit of excitement to my daily commute. I had the fortune of travelling across the big harbour on the Viola Desmond.
|Photo Source: www.halifax.ca|
For those of you unfamiliar with Viola Desmond's story let me give you a bit of a Cole's notes background. Viola was a Nova Scotia businesswomen in the 1940s. She also happened to be Black. In 1946, while on a business trip in New Glasgow, she decided to see a movie. Of course, this doesn't seem like any activity out of the ordinary, except that she wanted to purchase a floor ticket, but wasn't allowed to do so because of her skin pigmentation. Despite the laws at the time, Viola sat in the lower section, and was later arrested on charges of failing to pay the theatre tax - also known as "failing to be white." She spent a night in jail, paid the fines, and then eventually went on to battle it out in court - making Viola's actions a game changer in the Nova Scotia Civil Rights Movement. On April 15, 2010, Viola Desmond received an official apology from the Government of Nova Scotia (although 45 years after her passing). See the following Canadian Heritage Minute for a visual history.
The situation in 1946 is an interesting case, given Nova Scotia's contribution to the underground railroad and the push to end slavery. The province was of particular significance during the abolition of slavery in relocating freed slaves. Lawrence Hill's 2007 novel, The Book of Negroes focuses specifically on Nova Scotia's role. This, of course, does not mean that racism was not present in the province at that time, or that of Viola Desmond's, or even today. My point being, that this province has a history of opening its boarders during a time of great need (Syrian refugees, anyone?!). It provided opportunity - albeit quite challenging and riddled with inequality - to those able to leave slavery's rule in the United States, and yet
But as I sat on the ferry on my way to work, I felt a sense of pride and excitement knowing that I was aboard the Viola Desmond. Placing her name on a boat doesn't erase the past, but it will be a daily reminder of Nova Scotia's darker history and the woman who took a stand against it.
-the Orange Canadian
*Before the contest was shortlisted to 5 choices, the Municipality received plenty of submissions for possible names, a few of which were pretty funny. These included the Fart Hopper, Yeah Buoy!, Donair and Katy Ferry. It's not Boaty McBoatface or Ferry McFerry, but what can you do...