News release

Portrait of Viola Desmond installed in Government House Ballroom.

A portrait of civil rights hero Viola Irene Davis Desmond has taken its place among some of Canada's most important portraits, in the historic ballroom in Government House.

The portrait of the African-Nova Scotian entrepreneur by Pictou artist David MacIntosh, was commissioned by the lieutenant governor and the Town of New Glasgow, and unveiled at the town's Black Gala Homecoming in August. It was officially installed in a ceremony today, Nov. 8, by Lt.-Gov. Mayann Francis, Justice Minister Ross Landry and New Glasgow Mayor Barrie MacMillan.

"As representative of the Crown, I signed Viola Desmond's posthumous Royal Prerogative of Mercy Free Pardon on the advice of government -- a historic first in Canada," said Lt.-Gov. Francis. "Mrs. Desmond's exoneration and link to the Crown means her portrait installation in Government House is appropriate."

On April 15, the province granted an official apology and free pardon to the late Viola Desmond. A free pardon is based on innocence and recognizes that a conviction was in error. It is an extraordinary remedy.

"The Royal Prerogative of Mercy Free Pardon and Record of Conviction are now a part of Nova Scotia's history, just like Viola Desmond's story is part of our history," said Mr. Landry. "Mrs. Desmond was a hero, who stood up to racism and segregation, and for this, we celebrate her."

Mrs. Desmond, of Halifax, was wrongfully jailed and fined in 1946 for sitting in the whites-only section of a New Glasgow movie theatre.

"The story of Viola Desmond is one that is filled with inspiration and enlightenment," said Mr. MacMillan. "She went on to make a difference as a human rights activist and has become an icon for civil rights. Some have called Viola Desmond Canada's Rosa Parks but, in fact, Rosa Parks could be called America's Viola Desmond as Viola Desmond demonstrated her spirit for social justice, nine years before the Rosa Parks incident took place in Alabama."

The ceremony included a reading of a letter from author and Mrs. Desmond's sister, Wanda Robson, who could not attend the ceremony.

Other portraits in the ballroom include John Wentworth and George Prevost.

FOR BROADCAST USE:

A portrait of civil rights hero Viola Irene Davis Desmond has taken its place among some of Canada's most important portraits, in the historic ballroom in Government House.

The portrait of the African-Nova Scotian entrepreneur by Pictou artist David Macintosh was officially installed in a ceremony today, November 8th, by Lt.-Gov. Mayann Francis, Justice Minister Ross Landry and New Glasgow Mayor Barrie MacMillan.

Mrs. Desmond, of Halifax, was wrongfully jailed and fined in 1946 for sitting in the whites-only section of a New Glasgow movie theatre.

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Media Contacts:

Stephen Mostad
Office of the Lieutenant Governor 902-424-7431 E-mail:
Megan Tonet
Department of Justice 902-440-5792 E-mail:
Kimberly Dickson
Town of New Glasgow 902-755-0356 E-mail: