Written by Nadine LeBoeuf
As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, it is a time to reflect on the growth and inspiration that came from the unnecessary obstacles of a Black woman living in Canada.
While many slaves in the United States sought freedom in Canada, it goes without saying that they were not free from racism. Many Black Canadians still experience racism and segregation, and from it the struggles to provide for their families and to gain success both financially and socially. This is the history of Viola Desmond, who is no exception to the rule as a Black woman in the first half of the 20th century but who is also inspiring in her actions to seek racial equality and in her entrepreneurial success as a business owner and community supporter.
Viola was the kind of person who would go out in search of possibilities. She grew up in a time where she would constantly be denied admission to beauty schools because they were ‘white-only’. Viola would travel to other provinces and to various states in the United States to obtain the skills she needed to become a beautician. She even attended one of Madam C.J. Walker’s beauty schools in New York City. As a beautician, she opened her own salon called Vi’s Studio of Beauty Culture. Once she gained her footing, Viola began to make her own hair and skin products locally that could only previously be found in distant cities. She also opened her own beauty school named The Desmond School of Beauty Culture.This was an immense stepping stone for not only Viola, but other Black women in her community. She empowered other Black women by giving them the training they needed to open their own salons and to thrive as businesswomen. Even her story of overcoming the barriers and obstacles put in her way through white society’s standards and opinions on race are inspiring. Viola knew what she wanted and didn’t stop until she got it.
On November 8th, 1946 while on a business trip her car broke down in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia so she decided to go see a movie while it underwent repairs. When she arrived at the theater she asked for admission to the main floor but was sold a ticket for the balcony since the ticket seller told her she was not permitted to sell tickets for the main floor to ‘‘you people’’ with reference to her race. Viola sat in the main floor seating anyway, but not for long when an usher had asked her to move and when she refused to move, the police were called. She was arrested on the count of tax evasion – the only charge that the police could come up with to arrest her since she had not paid the extra penny in tax that was owed for main floor seating. Tax evasion was obviously not her intent but this was a way to conceal the bigger issue Viola fought to bring to the surface – racism. With the wrongful charge of tax evasion hanging over her, Viola did not stop inspiring and becoming an activist for racial equality and civil rights.

Historically, Viola Desmond is known for taking a stand by ‘taking a seat’. She stood up for what was right not only for herself but for all people of colour. Initially the impact of her resistance to segregation proved to be an action in the right direction and she was seen as an inspiration by her fellow community members. She fought the charges and sought to make changes but her efforts were diminished. In her personal life, standing up to racism had caused a strain on her marriage and she closed her business to study a business program in Montreal and to later move onto New York. It was only recently on April 15th, 2010 that Viola had received a posthumous pardon and the Crown-in-Right of Nova Scotia issued an apology stating she was rightfully resisting racial descrimination. While it took over 60 years to receive a pardon, the work Viola and other fellow Black Canadians have done in their lifetime and continue to do to create equality and push for equal rights is truly what needs to be recognized. Today you will find Viola’s face on the Canadian ten dollar bill and when you ride the ferry between Halifax and Dartmouth, you will see it’s named after her.
There are so many obstacles and limitations we face every day. Most of it stems from our own self-talk, but may come from a preconceived idea from others based on our appearance, ability or who we love. If you have the will to change the way you talk to yourself and the determination to ignore the limiting standards others place on you, there is no stopping you.
It took courage for Viola to fight for civil rights and racial equality. In the end, while the experience took a toll on her personal life and quite possibly her health, she made a difference in our lives regardless of the colour of our skin just because she spoke up. Be courageous, stand up for yourself and make the change you want to see.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Andrea Welling

Regional Director, BC


Tell us something about you:

Helping entrepreneurs connect with valuable resources in the entrepreneurship community is one of my passions. In addition, I strongly believe in the power of mentorship to support new ventures to be able to build confidence to go to their next level. For existing businesses struggling to scale, mentorship provides another invaluable perspective and a way to broaden the entrepreneur’s skillset.

For more information about Futurpreneur Canada or to learn more about entrepreneurship, please contact Andrea at [email protected].

Testimony about your experience at LBCN:

As a guest speaker with LBCN, I felt supported to create a presentation around pivoting your business that would directly speak to the entrepreneurial mindset which I feel is a key aspect of being a successful business owner. LBCN was very professional in creating a colorful advertisement for the event and I was so pleased to share this through my network. The event itself was well attended and participants felt comfortable to share and ask questions which made the experience interactive and engaging. LBCN staff were organized, efficient and friendly and I felt look after every step of the way.

Manuel Banales



Tell us something about you:

I was born and raised in Mexico, where I studied law in Guadalajara, Jalisco. This permitted me to become aware of the fact that business relationships are what makes up most of organized society. My passion is to create businesses catered to the current demand of society. However, my biggest passion is to create healthy and diverse businesses by always maintaining the customer as my number one priority.

Testimony about your experience at LBCN:

Being an active member of LCBN has permitted me to have access to a large data base of other entrepreneurs and a vast amount of companies which each specialize in different mercantile niches. This has enabled our company (Western Canada Education Services) to become well-known amongst the Latin community in Canada. This, in effect, has given us the opportunity to position ourselves effectively in Latin America.

Rosa Maria Delgado

Financial Planner


Tell us something about you:

Rosa has been in Canada since 1999, and previous to her current business as an Insurance and Mutual Fund agent, had a successful career in Corporate Finance in the Tech Industry.

Rosa’s mission is to teach new Canadians the ABCs of personal finances and help them implement a financial plan to achieve their goals. Rosa truly believes all new Canadians from Latin America and elsewhere have the skills, knowledge, and dedication to succeed professionally in Canada. Rosa’s job is to guide them to make the most of their finances, following the premise: “It does not matter how much you make, but how much you keep”

Testimony about your experience at LBCN:

LCBN was a great platform to launch my business. When I first decided to turn my part-time business into my new mission and long-term career path, I started attending LCBN’s monthly breakfasts. These networking events were paramount in helping me meet other professional members in the Latin community and create a brand for myself.

I would highly recommend you become part of LCBN to fast-start your business, and become part of the Latin-American business community.

Please fill the form to register as a partner

Please fill the form to register as a sponsor

Attend Event Form

Eligibility Confirmation Form

Please, upload any relevant files to the next field (max. 2mb)