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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Canada's Rosa Parks Vindicated at Last

A story I stumbled upon this morning over at Culture Choc:  in 1946 Viola Desmond, a black Nova Scotia businesswoman, was forcibly dragged out of a movie theater by police for sitting in the downstairs "whites only" section (rather than the "colored" balcony), spent the night in jail, and was ultimately convicted of tax evasion for - get this - not paying the extra one cent sales tax for the downstairs seat, and fined $20 plus costs.  Even though she'd offered to pay the extra charge, but the theater manager refused, telling her he couldn't sell a ticket to "you people."

I never knew before now that Canada had any kind of racial segregation in that period, but it just goes to show that racism is definitely not unique to the South, or to the United States.

Last Thursday, however, the Premier of Nova Scotia apologized on behalf of the province at a ceremony honoring Desmond - who died in 1965 - and representing the Queen of Canada, the Lieutenant Governor, herself a black woman, signed a free pardon for the wrongful conviction.  Good deal.  Story and video here and here.  Viola's 83-year-old sister, Wanda, was present to receive the honors accorded her late sister.

Sometimes you may think your one tiny act of courage or decency is too small, too obscure, to be remembered or make any difference in the universe.  But you never can tell what the ultimate effect of doing the right thing will be, even if it comes many years after you've gone to dust. 

So just do the right thing anyway.

Wanda Robson looks on with Premier Dexter and Paris as Lt. Governor Francis signs a pardon for her sister in Halifax, Nova Scotia

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