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Special postal tributes celebrate iconic Canadians as part of Black History Month
2012 stamps recognize and honour the incredible lives of Viola Desmond and John Ware

Feb. 2, 2012

Canada Post issued two stamps today in celebration of Black History Month, highlighting the experiences and accomplishments of two remarkable Canadians: Viola Desmond and John Ware. The stamp designs combine a collage of historic elements used to give dimension to the lives of Desmond and Ware. A flattering portrait of Desmond is the central focus, with a photo of the famous New Glasgow Roseland theatre and her posthumous pardon granted in 2010 as silhouettes of significance. Ware’s life as a cowboy shines through with a rich portrait surrounded by icons of his life in the west including a photo of his ranch, a lasso, and a horse.

“Inspirational Canadians like Viola Desmond and John Ware are part of Canada’s rich culture and history,” said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Regional Minister for Nova Scotia. “These commemorative stamps are a wonderful tribute to these heroes who have shaped and continue to define how we live as Canadians.”

“Viola Desmond is truly an inspirational and proud part of our history having faced prejudice and overcoming with such determination and grace. Her pardon in 2010 speaks immeasurably to her incredible legacy,” said Jim Phillips, Director of Stamps Services at Canada Post. “John Ware was the ultimate cowboy, a folk hero who helped to create a viable and solid ranching industry in Alberta. With undeniable skill and a keen sense of adventure, he was the perfect pioneer for the future of steer-wrestling.”

Viola Desmond was arrested in Nova Scotia on November 8, 1946 for sitting in the “whites only” section of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow. Dragged from the theatre to the local jail where she spent the night, Desmond was tried without counsel and convicted of defrauding the province of the additional one-cent tax for seats in the “whites-only” section. She was also fined $20, which she paid, but went on to fight the charge. Unsuccessful at overturning her conviction, she used her returned fee to fund activities of the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. In 2010, the government of Nova Scotia formally apologized and granted Desmond a posthumous pardon – the first such to be granted in Canada.

John Ware was a cowboy who helped to establish the ranching industry in part of the prairies that would become Alberta. Born into slavery, Ware made his way to Texas after the Civil War where he became an experienced cowhand. In 1882, he drove 3,000 cattle across the border for the North West Cattle Company and then settled in Canada establishing his own ranch in the Foothills. Ware was the ultimate “folk hero” with great stature, adventure and abilities. He pioneered steer-wrestling, winning his first competition at the 1893 Calgary Fair, setting a precedent for what would become a highlight of today’s Calgary Stampede.

About the Stamps
The stamps, designed by Victoria’s Lara Minja, are printed by Lowe-Martin on Tullis Russell paper and each measure 32 mm x 24 mm (horizontal) and have simulated perforation. Printed using lithography in seven colours plus varnish, the stamps are pressure sensitive and are general tagged on four sides. The Official First Day Covers are cancelled in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia and Chatham, Ontario. The stamps are available in booklets of 10 stamps.

Additional information about Canadian stamps can be found in the news section of Canada Post's website, and photos of these new stamps are also available. Stamps and other products will be available at participating post offices, or can be ordered online by following the links at canadapost.ca/collecting, or by mail order from the National Philatelic Centre. From Canada and the USA, call toll-free: 1-800-565-4362, and from other countries, call: 902-863-6550.