The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has announced it will rename its largest cinema in honour of Canadian civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond. TIFF officials will officially unveil Cinema 1 as the Viola Desmond Cinema next year.
“We wanted to honour her because we feel her story deserves to be better known, and of course, as a film organization … it just made sense because her active resistance was in a cinema,” TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey said during an event marking Viola Desmond Day at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Nov. 8. The event recognized the legacy of both Desmond and her youngest sister Wanda Robson, both of whom fought for civil rights and against racial segregation.
The elder Desmond was arrested in 1946 while watching a movie in the whites-only section of the former Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, N.S. “When there are acts of resistance, when there’s injustice to be fought against, it’s the people who keep telling the story and make it visible; that’s a very important part of the struggle as well, so it was important to recognize both of the sisters,” Bailey said on Nov. 8.
Viola Desmond became the first Canadian woman to be honoured on a regularly circulating Bank of Canada note in 2018 with the release of a $10 vertical bill, the first issue from the as-of-yet-unnamed eighth series. The Royal Canadian Mint also honoured her on a $20 Fine silver coin, its first Black History Month issue, in 2019.