Viola Desmond Day – almost, but not quite

Published on February 28, 2014

To the editor,
I am disappointed with the Liberal government’s decision regarding naming the new February Holiday.

Along with Viola Desmond’s family, I am pleased that the 2015 holiday is to be dedicated to Viola Desmond. But I am shocked by the government’s determination to deny Viola Desmond a permanent day, especially after so many individuals, municipalities, editorials and organizations, have called for naming the holiday “Viola Desmond Day.”

To be clear: The provincial government – not our school children — has decided that February 15 in 2015 will be named “Viola Desmond Day” — but only for that one year. The government is inviting school children to immediately name the holiday for the next 12 years – effectively blocking “Viola Desmond Day” for the future.

I cannot understand why the Liberal government – speaking through Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan and Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Tony Ince – seems determined to deny Viola Desmond, a respected icon for Social Justice in Nova Scotia, the honour so many people have called for.

I agree with the Hon. Tony Ince who only a few days before this unfortunate announcement recalled the early opposition to African Heritage and Black History Month, saying “Today it is a great celebration… and it would be an honour to have an African Nova Scotian named for the holiday.”

I recommend that government reconsider their decision in light of the suggestion presented to them by Viola Desmond’s sister, Wanda Robson, to call the holiday “Viola Desmond Day – A Day To Honour All Those Who Have Fought for Social Justice in Nova Scotia.” Call it that now, and forever. In that way, year-by-year, during Black History Month, school children can still select people and events to also be celebrated – all under the consistent banner of “Viola Desmond Day.”

I recommend that Ms. Regan and Mr. Ince set an important example for our children – by correcting what I consider a mistake. I suggest they recognize the support “Viola Desmond Day” has received by calling the February Holiday “Viola Desmond Day — A Day To Honour All Those Who Have Fought for Social Justice in Nova Scotia.” Each year, the names chosen by our school children will come up for remembrance — all the while continuing to honour the woman who is remembered for her fight against racial discrimination and her success as an African-Nova Scotian businesswoman.

There is still time to make this right and to proclaim a permanent day for Viola Desmond.

Ronald Caplan, C.M.