Viola Desmond will be honoured with February 2015 holiday

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BEDFORD - Viola Desmond will be the first Nova Scotian honoured as the province begins holding a February statuatory holiday in 2015.

Viola Desmond

Nova Scotia students will have a chance to show what they've learned in their classes by suggesting names for the new February holiday.  

Grade 4 students at Bedford South School joined Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan and Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Tony Ince on Monday to launch the naming campaign.  

The campaign invites Primary to Grade 12 classes across the province to submit two things: a general name for the holiday that instills pride in being Nova Scotian, and a suggestion that recognizes a significant cultural and/or historic contribution to Nova Scotia.  

"Not only will students help name the February holiday, they'll help us come up with a list of some of the remarkable people, places and events that have made Nova Scotia what it is today," said Regan. "Each year, we'll celebrate a different contribution to Nova Scotia's storied past and diverse culture, and learn more about our history in the process."  

The 2015 holiday will recognize Viola Desmond, the African Nova Scotian businesswoman who was wrongfully jailed and fined in 1946 for refusing to give up her seat in the white peoples' section of a New Glasgow movie theatre. Many consider Desmond to be Canada's Rosa Parks.  

The holiday's name, and the next 12 contributions to be celebrated, will be announced before the end of the school year.  

"This is a great way to recognize and celebrate Nova Scotia's rich culture and history," said Ince. "Students will learn a lot about Nova Scotia's past and present as they develop their submissions, and they'll be part of something Nova Scotians will enjoy every February, year after year."  

Each class can submit one entry per category at www.novascotia.ca/februaryholiday, until March 28.  

A panel will review the entries and recommend names to Regan.

Kim Stairs-Freeze, a Grade 4 teacher at Bedford South School, said her class is excited to participate in the naming campaign.  

"Exploring Nova Scotia's past offers so many wonderful learning opportunities, and this campaign will give students of all ages the chance to learn more about the history and culture in their own backyards," said Mrs. Stairs-Freeze. "Our class has already started talking about some possible ideas.  

"We have regular class discussions about showing empathy and helping others at home, school and in the community, so this is great for students to learn about Nova Scotians who've made a positive difference throughout their lives."  

The holiday will be celebrated on the third Monday in February, beginning in 2015, giving Nova Scotians six statutory holidays per year.  

Nova Scotians can watch 'Long Road to Justice: The Viola Desmond Story' to learn more about her courageous story. The film is available in schools and online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI00i9BtsQ8.  

More information on the February holiday naming campaign can be found at www.novascotia.ca/februaryholiday.  

Organizations: Bedford South School, African Nova Scotian

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, New Glasgow, Canada

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