Try another Day
As February 15 approaches, I am reminded that Viola Desmond did not get the honour of Viola Desmond Day as promised for Nova Scotia's first Heritage Day, in 2015. People may recall the weather that day was pretty rough—very cold with huge chunks of ice blocking the sidewalks and roads. The plows had just about given up, and the major ceremony planned for the Halifax North Memorial Library was canceled. And according to the rules for Heritage Day, that was the last day for Viola Desmond.
That first Heritage Day in 2015 was dedicated to Viola Desmond because, as many know, Desmond was the woman who refused to give up her seat in the "whites only" section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow. That was November 8, 1946. When she was told that black people had to sit in the balcony she refused to give up her seat, and she ended up being carried out of the theatre struggling with a police officer and the manager. Jailed for the night, she was tried next morning without a lawyer and found guilty of cheating the Nova Scotia government out of one penny—the difference in amusement tax between the main floor ticket and the balcony.
Desmond appealed the judgment unsuccessfully. But one judge went on record to say that the case was never about the amusement tax and always about race. It's meaty stuff in Canada's story of social justice.
Sixty-five years later, premier Darrell Dexter apologized on behalf of Nova Scotia, and Lt-Gov. Mayann Francis read out Queen Elizabeth's Grant of Free Pardon, recognizing that Desmond had committed no crime. The town of New Glasgow held two days of recognition, unveiling a painting of Desmond that resides in Government House. There have been many honours, school programs and scholarships established in her name. Yet the provincial government declared the third Monday in February as Heritage Day, to honour a different person or event each year, and the weather pretty much blocked Heritage Day's only opportunity to remember Desmond's courage.
Here are the next seven subjects of Heritage Day: 2016 is Joseph Howe; 2017 is Mi'kmaq Heritage; 2018 is Mona Louise Parsons; 2019 is Maud Lewis; 2020 is Africville; 2021 is Edward Francis Arab; 2022 is Grand Pré National Historic Site. Viola Desmond's day has come and it has gone—and with it, the lasting messages that should not be forgotten.
Viola Desmond deserves better. Perhaps the debate will be taken up again, and either our Heritage Day can be declared a permanent Viola Desmond Day, or another day can be declared as Viola Desmond Day in Nova Scotia.
Viola Desmond Day does not have to be another statutory holiday, a day off work with the schools closed. That would be costly for businesses and it will not forward the educational value of a Viola Desmond Day. Instead, I recommend that Viola Desmond Day should be a day of focus, of teaching about Desmond as a businessperson, a defender of her family and a brave social activist. It should be a day of deliberately measuring how far we all have come along the road her achievement for us all. —Ronald Caplan, C.M., Sydney, NS
Fix for Fitness FX
While Lindsay Gloade-Raining Bird's article "Not all gyms" provided very basic information about gyms in Halifax, it could have done more (Well Being Guide, January 14). In particular, her comments on Fitness FX on Quinpool Road suggest she may not ever have set foot inside the gym. I am a retiree and enjoy the luxury of spending time in Halifax, western Canada and escapes to the south in winter. Fitness is important to me.
At present I participate in two different classes at Fitness FX as well as using the equipment. When in Halifax I am at this gym five or six times a week. The instructors are excellent, as are the personal trainers and the staff. For approximately 25 years I have been going to gyms in various cities, and Fitness FX offers as supportive and welcoming an environment as any. —Catherine Nicol, Halifax
Laura Kenins wrote the Arts story "Forever young" last week, but due to an editing error a different byline appeared. The Coast apologizes for the mistake. As with the "Not all gyms" article above, the online version has been amended.