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Symbolic repayment of Viola Desmond’s fine will go to CBU scholarship

'My mother always stressed education, education, education is the key to success,' says Desmond’s sister

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caption A framed copy of the official repayment cheque issued to the family of Viola Desmond is displayed alongside her pardon certificate.
African Nova Scotian Affairs

Viola Desmond’s fines and court fees from 1946 have been symbolically paid by the Nova Scotia government, thanks to a high school student.

A virtual ceremony was held Wednesday to symbolically reimburse Desmond’s only surviving family member, youngest sister Wanda Robson, for the court costs and fines.

The repayment was originally requested by Varishini Deochand, a Grade 11 student from Vaughan, Ont. Deochand wrote a letter to Premier Stephen McNeil three years ago after she learned about Desmond in her English class.

“The removal of the conviction against Desmond’s name is an acknowledgment of her innocence. I believe that one should not pay a fine for a crime they did not commit,” said Deochand during the ceremony.

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Desmond was found guilty of tax evasion after she challenged racial segregation at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow on Nov. 8,1946. She refused to pay a penny of entertainment tax. She paid a fine and court costs of $26. Today, that’s around $368.29.

Robson donated the repayment to a one-time Cape Breton University scholarship. The province increased that amount to $1,000.

‘My mother always stressed education, education, education is the key to success,’ Desmond said during the ceremony.

CBU president David Dingwall expressed his wish to have more Black students at the school, especially students from Nova Scotia.

“I hope that the recipient of this award carries the qualities of Viola with them as they journey through their education at CBU,” said Dingwall.

Desmond was given a posthumous apology and pardon by Nova Scotia in 2010. In 2018, she was selected as the first Canadian woman to appear on the new $10 note.

An official cheque for the original $26 total will be displayed alongside Desmond’s pardon certificate at the Nova Scotia legislature.

African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Tony Ince was delighted by Varishini’s progressive actions.

“Young people across our country are shining examples of those who refuse to settle for the status quo,” said Ince. “Varishini’s request is a symbol of the bright future before us.”

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Leo Bui

I'm a journalism student at the University of King's College.

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