At the Halton District School Board meeting on March 21, 2018, the Board of Trustees approved “Viola Desmond Public School” as the name of the new elementary school in Milton. The school is currently under construction in southwest Milton and will open in Fall 2018 under the leadership of Gavin Robertson as Principal. Viola Desmond Public School will be located at 1450 Leger Way in Milton.
Viola Desmond (1914-1965) is a Canadian civil rights icon from Nova Scotia, renowned for standing up for racial segregation by refusing to leave a whites-only section of a movie theatre in 1946. She was arrested and fined for her actions. It was those courageous actions that paved the way for the modern civil rights movement in Canada.
Desmond recently became the first black person, and the first Canadian woman, to be featured on a Canadian banknote. The new $10 bill was unveiled at the beginning of March at a ceremony held in Halifax with Desmond’s sister Wanda Robson.
“I am thrilled with the choice of Viola Desmond for our new school in Milton,” says Gavin Robertson, Principal of Viola Desmond Public School. “In the spirit of Viola Desmond’s legacy, we look forward to building an inclusive school community by offering students educational experiences that will engage, inspire and empower them as global citizens. Viola Desmond has shown us that voice, action and advocacy make a powerful difference and this will be reflected and embodied in our school culture and community.”
As an inspirational figure who symbolizes inclusivity and respect, the selection of Viola Desmond as the name for a new school aligns with the goals of the Halton District School Board’s Multi-Year Plan 2016-2020 to provide all students with a positive, inspirational and inclusive learning environment where the well-being of all students is supported.
The name of the school was selected in accordance with the Halton District School Board Administrative Procedure: Naming Schools. More than 200 unique names were submitted by the community between January 8 – February 9, 2018. Ballot boxes were placed in neighbouring schools and public libraries in Milton and an online ballot box was activated. A Naming Committee, comprised of Trustees, Board staff, Gavin Robertson and parents of students who will attend the school, developed a shortlist of the names. These names were presented to Trustees at the Board meeting on March 7. In addition to Viola Desmond, the other name on the shortlist was the Indigenous word “maamawi” which is the Ojibwe translation of “all of us/all together”.
Submissions from the community described Viola Desmond as a Canadian hero who would be an inspirational figure for elementary school students. Community members said they believe a school with this name symbolizes a growing and increasingly-diverse Halton region.