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Muskoka Women’s Advocacy Group (MWAG) operates two, 24-hour crisis shelters for abused women and their children. Muskoka Interval House is located in Bracebridge, Ontario and Chrysalis in Huntsville, Ontario. Chrysalis also offers supportive transitional housing units for vulnerable women.
If you would like to speak to shelter staff about accessing our shelter, making a donation or for general information, please click here
Women Celebrate 100 Years
2016 marks 100 years of voting rights for women, thanks in part to the brave work of women like Nellie McClung. As a result of this historic anniversary, we will be showcasing a strong woman in Canadian history each month.
Viola Irene Desmond (née Davis), businesswoman, civil libertarian (born 6 July 1914 in Halifax, NS; died 7 February 1965 in New York, NY.
Born and raised in Halifax, Viola Desmond trained as a teacher but soon joined her husband Jack Desmond in a combined barbershop and hairdressing salon, a beauty parlour on Gottingen Street. While expanding her business across the province, Viola went to New Glasgow in 1946.
In New Glasgow, Desmond developed car trouble and decided to go to the movies while repairs were made. She bought a ticket, entered the theatre and took a seat on the main floor, unaware that tickets sold to African Canadians in this town were for the balcony and the main floor was reserved solely for White patrons. Theatre staff demanded that she go to the balcony, but she refused, since she could see better from the main floor. The police were summoned immediately and she was dragged out, which injured her hip. She was charged and held overnight in jail; she was not advised of her rights.
Maintaining her dignity, Desmond remained sitting upright, wearing her white gloves (a sign of sophistication and class at the time). The following morning, despite not having done anything wrong, she paid the imposed fine of $20. Besides being fined, she was charged with defrauding the Government of Nova Scotia of the difference in the tax between a ground floor and a balcony seat, which amounted to one cent.
While discussing the incident with the doctor who tended to her, Desmond decided to fight the charges. Clearly, the issue was about her being African Canadian and there being a racist seating policy in place; it was not about tax evasion. In taking the matter to the courts, Viola Desmond's experience helped to galvanize public opinion locally and internationally, and to raise awareness about the reality of Canadian segregation.