Viola Desmond wins Halifax ferry naming contest

Over 6,600 votes cast for Nova Scotian civil rights icon.

Province of Nova Scotia

Halifax Transit’s newest ferry has a name, and it’s Viola Desmond.

Mayor Mike Savage made the announcement on Thursday afternoon at the Black Cultural Centre, drawing a standing ovation from those in attendance.

According to HRM, “Viola Desmond” received just under a third of the 19,230 votes cast in the two-week naming period for the new harbour ferry. She beat out fellow shortlisted names Vincent Coleman, John Curwin, Gavin Rainnie and Ronald Wallace.

Born and raised in Halifax, Desmond is today most well-known for a 1946 trip to New Glasgow where she unknowingly sat in the white-only section of a movie theatre. Desmond was removed and held in jail overnight—a story that exposed some of the country’s more blatant racism and issues of segregation.

She’s since been commemorated in a stamp, a Heritage Day and a Heritage Minute. She’s often, problematically, called “Canada’s Rosa Parks” despite Desmond’s night in jail taking place nine years before Parks’ arrest. Of course, Rosa Parks wasn’t even the first Rosa Parks, but history likes to be streamlined like that.

“Viola Desmond” will now be submitted to Transport Canada for final approval. The new vessel will go into service this summer.

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