News release

Late Viola Desmond Granted Apology, Free Pardon

NOTE: Hi-res photos, audio and video clips will be available for download later today, April 15, as part of a social media release at http://gov.ns.ca/news/smr/2010-04-15-pardon.asp .

The province has granted an official apology and free pardon to the late Viola Desmond.

Mrs. Desmond, of Halifax, was an African Canadian wrongfully jailed and fined in 1946 for sitting in the white peoples' section of a New Glasgow movie theatre. Mrs. Desmond passed away in 1965.

On the advice of the Executive Council, the lieutenant governor has exercised the Royal Prerogative of Mercy to grant a Free Pardon.

"This closes an erroneous chapter in the history of this province and allows a new one to begin," Lt.-Gov. Mayann Francis said. "I am confident that the case of Mrs. Viola Desmond will be the focus of scholarly and human rights research for years to come. It is a historic moment for Nova Scotia and for Canada, and I am proud to be a part of it."

A free pardon is based on innocence and recognizes that a conviction was in error. A free pardon is an extraordinary remedy and is considered only in the rarest of circumstances.

"This is a historic day for the province of Nova Scotia and a chance for us to finally right the wrong done to Mrs. Desmond and her family," said Premier Darrell Dexter. "This is also an opportunity for us to acknowledge the incredibly brave actions of a woman who took a stand against racism and segregation."

This is the first time a free pardon has been posthumously granted in Canada.

"What happened to my sister is part of our history, and needs to remain intact," said Wanda Robson, sister of Mrs. Desmond. "We must learn from our history so we do not repeat it. If my parents were here today, it would warm their hearts to see Viola recognized as a true Canadian hero."

FOR BROADCAST USE:

The province has granted an official apology and Free Pardon to the late Viola Desmond.

Viola Desmond, of Halifax, was an African Canadian wrongfully jailed and fined in 1946 for sitting in the white peoples' section of a New Glasgow movie theatre.

Premier Darrell Dexter says today is a historic day for Nova Scotia and a chance for us to right the wrong done to Mrs. Desmond and her family.

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Media Contacts:

Janet Lynn McNeil
Premier's Office Cell: 902-237-4287 E-mail:
Megan Tonet
Department of Justice 902-424-0942 Cell: 902-440-5792 E-mail: