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Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter greets Wanda Robson in New Glasgow, N.S., on Thursday, April 15. Ms. Robson's sister Viola Desmond was posthumously pardoned for her 1946 arrest. (PAUL DARROW/Paul Darrow/Reuters)
Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter greets Wanda Robson in New Glasgow, N.S., on Thursday, April 15. Ms. Robson's sister Viola Desmond was posthumously pardoned for her 1946 arrest. (PAUL DARROW/Paul Darrow/Reuters)

In rare posthumous pardon, Nova Scotia apologizes for black woman's 1946 arrest Add to ...

The government of Nova Scotia apologized and granted a special pardon Thursday to the late Viola Desmond, a black woman jailed in 1946 for sitting in a whites-only section of a segregated movie theatre.

Premier Darrell Dexter said he is sorry to Ms. Desmond's family, and all black Nova Scotians, for the racism she was subjected to in an incident he called unjust.

"This injustice has impacted not just Mrs. Desmond during her life and her family, but other African-Nova Scotians and all Nova Scotians who found and continue to find this event in Nova Scotia's history offensive and intolerable," Mr. Dexter said.





"On behalf of the province of Nova Scotia, I am sorry."

Shortly after, Lieutenant-Governor Mayann Francis granted a free pardon to Desmond in what the Nova Scotia government said marked the first time in Canada such a form of clemency has been posthumously awarded.

Wanda Robson, Ms. Desmond's 83-year-old sister, looked on.

"I am numb with joy," Ms. Robson said.

Ms. Desmond, then 32, was on her way to Sydney, N.S., on Nov. 8, 1946, to sell imported beauty products when her car broke down.

She went to the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, N.S., while it was being repaired. But she was forcibly removed from the theatre by police, jailed and fined.

"The arrest, detainment and conviction of Viola Desmond is an example in our history where the law was used to perpetrate racism and racial segregation," Dexter said.

"This is contrary to the values of Canadian society."

Ms. Desmond died in 1965.

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