Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 (Halifax, NS) – Mayor Mike Savage, on behalf of the Halifax Regional Municipality, today announced Viola Desmond as the winner of the recent Halifax Transit ferry naming contest for the new vessel set to go into service this summer.
Viola Desmond was born and raised in Halifax. She trained as a teacher but then joined her husband in the operation of a combined barbershop and beauty parlour on Gottingen Street. She became famous in New Glasgow, NS, in 1946 when she unknowingly sat in the Whites only section of a movie theatre that practiced segregation. She was not permitted to stay, and was detained overnight although she offered to pay the extra required to sit in this section. Her story highlighted the need to address segregation in Canada and raised awareness of the African Canadian situation nationally and internationally.
“Seventy years since Viola’s visit to that movie theatre, her commitment to civil rights continues to educate and inspire, highlighting how far we have come and reminding us that as individuals and as a community we must continue to advance equality for all,” said Mayor Savage.
An incredible 19,238 votes were received over the course of the two-week naming contest, with Viola Desmond receiving just under a third (6692) of the total votes cast. Her name was one of five short-listed to adorn the new harbour ferry, in addition to Vincent Coleman, Private John Curwin, Major Gavin Rainnie and Ronald Wallace.
Over 200 names were submitted by Halifax residents in the fall 2015, which were then reviewed and narrowed down by Halifax Transit and Corporate Communications staff based on appropriateness, originality, cultural significance and diversity. The final five names were selected from the short list by a committee comprised of Mayor Mike Savage and one member from each of the three community councils.
Viola Desmond will now be submitted to Transport Canada for consideration and final approval as the name of the new ferry.
This is the final of three new vessels that will replace aging infrastructure in the fleet of five harbour ferries – bringing more continuity and efficiency to Halifax Transit’s ferry services. June 2014 marked the first new vessel to be added to the Halifax Transit ferry fleet in more than 25 years. Residents voted to name the ferry “Christopher Stannix” in honour of a young soldier from Cole Harbour who was killed in 2007 while serving with the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan.
The second replacement ferry received in 2015 was named “Craig Blake”, to memorialize Petty Officer Second Class Craig Blake, who was the first Canadian sailor to be killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan. He was part of an elite navy group that specializes in neutralizing bombs – underwater and on land – based at the Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic in Halifax.
We would like to thank all residents who submitted names for consideration and participated in the voting contest. The first person to submit Viola’s name for consideration is receiving a one-year conventional transit pass courtesy of Halifax Transit and the municipality.
For more information on the Halifax Transit harbour ferry service, visit www.halifax.ca/transit.