VIDEO: Viola Desmond honoured with Canadian Walk of Fame star

Her 91-year-old sister Wanda says “she let nothing stand in her way”

Wanda Robson says her sister Viola Desmond “preached by doing,” and wanted young people to pursue their dreams regardless of what stood in their way.

Robson beamed as a Canada’s Walk of Fame star was unveiled in Halifax Friday afternoon in honour of the civil rights pioneer — the latest in a series of accolades Desmond has posthumously received in recent years.

The 91-year-old Robson told a crowd gathered at the Halifax Ferry Terminal that her sister fought to overcome the many obstacles in her path to pursue her career: training as a beautician in Montreal, Atlantic City and New York when she was unable to study in Halifax because of the colour of her skin.

“She let nothing stand in her way,” said Robson. ”It must’ve been very frustrating. I myself would’ve probably given up … but we are of a different nature, Viola and I.”

Desmond is most famous for her refusal to leave the whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre on Nov. 8, 1946 — nearly a decade before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Alabama.

She was dragged out of the theatre by police, arrested, thrown in jail for 12 hours, and fined. It would take 63 years for Nova Scotia to issue Desmond, who died in 1965, a posthumous apology and pardon.

READ MORE: VIDEO – Canada unveils new $10 bill featuring black businesswoman

While much has changed in the decades since her sister was dragged out of the theatre, Robson told The Canadian Press that education continues to be key in the pursuit of equality.

“I’m learning myself, every day,” she said.

“Racism can be so deep-seated, that sometimes the person themself doesn’t know they’re racist, doesn’t realize that they have to be educated.”

Robson, who attended her grandson’s graduation ceremony this week, said she has high hopes that future generations will continue the work of her sister and other civil rights activists.

“We need the younger generation to get up and confront, not in a manner of aggression, but in a manner of imparting knowledge, educating the people, that we are all one,” she said.

Canada’s Walk of Fame CEO Jeffrey Latimer told the crowd that each inductee represents the characteristics embodied in Canada’s identity: confidence, humility, perseverance, hopefulness, and courageousness.

“All of these qualities make Canada such an incredible nation, and all of these qualities lived and thrived inside the soul of Viola Desmond,” he said.

Canada’s Walk of Fame has inducted 173 Canadians since it began 20 years ago, including Desmond, who was inducted in Toronto last year.

The commemorative star will soon be mounted aboard the harbour ferry named for Desmond in 2016.

“Years from now when families arrive on this ferry, parents will be able to tell their children about the powerful and brave contributions of Viola Desmond: to civil rights, and human rights, around the world,” said Halifax Mayor Mike Savage.

Her story went largely untold for a half-century, but in recent years Desmond has also been featured on a stamp, and there are plans for a park in Toronto and streets in Montreal and Halifax to bear her name.

In March, a new $10 bill featuring Desmond was unveiled by Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz.

She is the first black person — and the first non-royal woman — on a regularly circulating Canadian bank note.

As well, Desmond is featured in a recent children’s book by Chelsea Clinton called “She Persisted Around the World,” which tells the stories of 13 women who shaped history across the globe.

Meanwhile, Robson, who has a signed copy of the book, said she’s thrilled about her sister’s growing recognition.

“I want to say to somebody: ‘pinch me,’” she said.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Cops for Kids stops in Revelstoke

Locals Kurt Grabinsky and James Moore are participating in the ride

LUNA Q&A: Leila Neverland of Mountain Sound

Mountain Sound will be playing LUNA Nocturnal Art & Wonder on Sept. 29

UPDATE: Aaron Orlando drops out of the race for Revelstoke City Council

Aaron Orlando has dropped out of the race for Revelstoke City Council.… Continue reading

UPDATE: Gary Starling pulls out of city council race

Gary Starling has withdrawn from the Revelstoke city council race, though he… Continue reading

Man on scooter injured after being struck by semi on Trans-Canada Highway

Sicamous resident suffers non-life-threatening injuries, charges pending for semi driver

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

Low risk associated with case of pneumococcal disease in the South Okanagan

No identified risk to the public from recent case of pneumococcal disease with associated meningitis

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Yukon man facing new attempted murder charge in B.C. exploding mail case

Leon Nepper, 73, is now facing one charge each of aggravated assault and attempted murder

Most Read