Skip to main content

Viola Desmond Awards

As part of the Black History Awareness series at Ryerson, the Viola Desmond Awards showcase talent from students, staff and faculty while raising awareness of the diverse and little-known stories and contributions of past and present Women of African descent in the building of Canada.

The annual event recognizes the contributions of outstanding Black Canadian Women to the Ryerson campus and in the community. Named after Ms. Viola Desmond, this event celebrates the catalyzing efforts she made towards achieving human rights for Black people in Canada.

Viola Desmond Awards Ceremony

Join us in celebrating the work and achievements of accomplished Black women from Ryerson University and the greater Toronto community at the 9th annual Viola Desmond Awards ceremony.
  • WHAT:
    Viola Desmond Awards Ceremony
  • DATE:
    March 06 2017
  • TIME:
    5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
  • WHERE:
    POD252 (Upper Snack Stop) for reception and gallery walk
    POD250 for Viola Desmond Awards Ceremony
    The ceremony will begin at 6 p.m.
  • OPEN TO:
    Public
  • CONTACT:
    The Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is committed to accessibility for persons with disabilities. Please contact Kristine Browne at k1browne@ryerson.ca, or 416-979-5000, ext. 7494 in advance of the event if you have any particular accommodation requirements.

Download event as ICS file

Recipients of the 9th Annual Viola Desmond Day Award Ceremony

  • Annette Bailey, Professor, Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing Recipient of the Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard Faculty Award
  • Donica Willis, Graphic and Web Specialist, Student Affairs Recipient of the Ms. Rosemary Sadlier Ryerson Staff Award
  • Devenae Bryce, Student, Business Technology Management, Ted Rogers School of Management Recipient of the Ms. Paulette Senior Ryerson Student Award
  • Siifan Hassen, Central Technical School Recipient of Viola Desmond High School Student Award
  • Sharon Folkes-Hall, Student, School of Social Work Recipient of 2017 Viola Desmond Bursary
Who was Viola Desmond?

Viola Davis Desmond (1914 –1965) was an African-Nova Scotian involved in one of the most publicized incidents of racial discrimination in Nova Scotian and Canadian history.

On November 8, 1946, Desmond refused to sit in the balcony designated for blacks in the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Instead, she took her seat on the ground floor where only white people were allowed to sit. After being forcibly removed and arrested, Desmond was found guilty of not paying the one-cent tax difference between the balcony and ground floor. She was fined $20 (equivalent to about $260 in 2015) and court costs ($6). She paid the fine but decided to fight the charge in court.

During the trial and following appeals, no one admitted that the theatre maintained a racist seating policy. All efforts to overturn the conviction at higher levels of court failed. After her lawyer returned her fee, she used it to set up a fund that supported activities at the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP). Although it happened over 70 years ago, Desmond’s case continues to gain notoriety, as one of the many cases that fought for the recognition of civil rights in the mid-20th century.

On April 14, 2010, then Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, Mayann Francis, who was the first Black Nova Scotian and only the second Black person in Canada to hold this office, on the advice of her premier, invoked the Royal Prerogative. This granted Desmond a posthumous pardon, the first of its kind to be granted in Canada. The free pardon came with an apology from Darrell Dexter, then the Premier of Nova Scotia, which stated that the charges should never have been laid and that Viola Desmond’s conviction was a miscarriage of justice. In addition, Canada Post issued a Viola Desmond Stamp in 2012 to commemorate her story and 2015 was known as the year of Viola Desmond in Nova Scotia. In July 2016, the Halifax Port Authority selected Viola Desmond as the name for its newest ferry.

In December 2016, the Bank of Canada announced that Viola Desmond would be the new face of the $10 Bank note (expected to be in circulation in 2018). Viola Desmond is now permanently etched in Canadian history helping everyone to discover who were, and who are, these accomplished Black women of Canada!

Viola Desmond Day award eligibility and nomination details

Awards are presented to four members of the Black community - a female faculty member, a female staff member, a current female Ryerson student and a local area female high school student who plans on attending post-secondary education after graduation. The current student and the high school awards each include a bursary.

The faculty, staff and Ryerson student awards are named in honour of other notable women in Canadian Black history each year. For 2017, the award names are as follows:

  • Ryerson Faculty Award: Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard
  • Ryerson Staff Award: Ms. Rosemary Sadlier
  • Ryerson Student Award: Ms. Paulette Senior

The Viola Desmond Award is presented each year to the high school student.

Eligibility criteria for the Ryerson faculty award

Each nominee in the faculty category must:

  • Self-identify as a female;
  • Self-identify as Black, African Canadian or have Black/African Canadian ancestry;
  • Reside in the Greater Toronto Region;
  • Have enriched Ryerson’s and/or Toronto’s diversity through initiatives promoting Black history and celebrating the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural lives of Black people;
  • Be an active leader in her community who has made a positive difference in areas such as equity, diversity, inclusion, human rights, social justice and community-building/engagement;
  • Have a minimum of five years of work/volunteer background and/or activist/advocacy experience with the Black/African-Canadian community.

All applications must be accompanied by a nomination letter up to 500 words in length and all other supporting documents.

Eligibility criteria for the Ryerson staff award

Each nominee in the staff category must:

  • Self-identify as a female;
  • Self-identify as Black, African Canadian or have Black/African Canadian ancestry;
  • Reside in the Greater Toronto Region;
  • Have enriched Ryerson’s and/or Toronto’s diversity through initiatives promoting Black history and celebrating the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural lives of Black people;
  • Be an active leader in her community who has made a positive difference in areas such as equity, diversity, inclusion, human rights, social justice and community-building/engagement;
  • Have a minimum of five years of work/volunteer background and/or activist/advocacy experience with the Black/African-Canadian community.
  • All applications must be accompanied by a nomination letter up to 500 words in length and all other supporting documents.
Eligibility for the Ryerson student award

The applicant/nominee must:

  • Self-identify as a female;
  • Self-identify as Black, African Canadian or have Black/African Canadian ancestry;
  • Be a current full-time or part-time Ryerson University student in good academic standing;
  • Be a positive role model and advocate of the Black/African-Canadian community;
  • Have a consistently good academic standing;
    • Students enrolled during the 2015-16 academic year with a minimum 1.67 cumulative grade point average and a clear academic standing will be considered.
  • Be an active leader in her community who has made a positive difference in areas such as Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and human rights, social justice and community development/engagement.

This award includes a $500 monetary reward.

Eligibility criteria for local high school student award

Each nominee in the high school student category must:

  • Self-identify as a female;
  • Self-identify as Black, African Canadian or have Black/African Canadian ancestry;
  • Be in her final-year of secondary school in good academic standing;
  • Be accepted for admission to an accredited Ontario university or community college;
  • Be a positive role model and advocate of the Black/African-Canadian community;
  • Be in good academic standing
    • With a minimum average of of 80% in 6 U/M credits or equivalent will be considered;
  • Be an active leader in her community who has made a positive difference in areas such as equity, diversity, inclusion and human rights, social justice and community development.

This award includes a $500 monetary reward.

Nomination for faculty, staff and student awards

For faculty, staff and student nominations, fill out the form below and submit it with a 500 word letter of support.

Submitting nominations by email

Nomination packages can be submitted by email to blackhistory@ryerson.ca with the subject line 9th Annual Viola Desmond Day Award Celebration.

Submitting nominations by mail

Nomination packages can be mailed to:

Black History Awareness Committee
VIOLA DESMOND DAY AWARDS SELECTION COMMITTEE
POD-254
350 Victoria St.
Toronto, Ontario
M5B 2K3

Submitting nominations in person

Nomination packages can be dropped off in-person to Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in POD254.


All nominations must be submitted by February 17, 2017 at 5 p.m.

Selection

Recipients will be selected by members of the Black History Awareness Committee and their decision shall be final.

Deadline

Nomination forms must be received at the e-mail address listed above no later than 5 p.m., February 17, 2017.

Viola Desmond Day bursary eligibility and application

The Viola Desmond Day Bursary is awarded annually to a student who self-identifies as female and Black, African, or African-Canadian, and is enrolled in a degree or certificate program at Ryerson University in the the following academic year. The student must demonstrate financial need, a consistently good academic standing, and have demonstrated involvement in the community through extracurricular activities and/or community service.

Note: The bursary application originally closed September 30, 2016. Due to application process issues, the bursary has been reopened and will close February 17, 2017.

Eligibility for the Ryerson student bursary

The bursary applicant must:

  • Self-identify as a female;
  • Self-identify as Black, African Canadian or have Black/African Canadian ancestry;
  • Be enrolled in a degree or certificate program at Ryerson University in the current academic year;
  • Have a consistently good academic standing;
    • Students enrolled during the 2015-16 academic year with a minimum 1.67 cumulative grade point average and a clear academic standing will be considered.
  • Have demonstrated involvement in the community through extracurricular activities and/or community service, as determined by the Black History.

The bursary amount is $1000.

Application process for the Ryerson student bursary

To apply for the student bursary, fill out the application below and complete the additional information detailed on the form.

Submitting applications by email

Applications can be submitted by email to blackhistory@ryerson.ca with the subject line 2017 Viola Desmond Bursary.

Submitting applications by mail

Applications can be mailed to:

Black History Awareness Committee
BURSARY SELECTION COMMITTEE
POD-254
350 Victoria St.
Toronto, Ontario
M5B 2K3

Submitting applications in person

Applications can be dropped off in-person to the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office located at POD - 254.


All applications must be submitted by February 17, 2017 at 5 p.m.

Selection

Recipients will be selected by members of the Black History Awareness Committee and their decision shall be final.

2017 - Viola Desmond Reception with special guest Wanda Robson
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2009

  • Paulina Bleah, third-year nursing student Recipient of Mary Ann Shadd Award
  • Kay Sealy, Enrollment Services and Student Records Recipient of Portia White Award
  • Professor Carole Chauncey, Ted Rogers School of Information Technology Management Recipient of Carrie Best Award
  • Bai Rashid, high school student who is part of Ryerson’s First Generation project Recipient of Viola Desmond Award

Viola Desmond Award Nomination Deadline

  • WHAT:
    Viola Desmond Award Nomination Deadline
  • DATE:
    February 14, 2016 - February 15, 2016
  • TIME:
    All Day

Download event as ICS file