Proud moment for Canada
Black rights activist Viola Desmond to be 1st Canadian woman on $10 bill
Black rights activist Viola Desmond, who was jailed for defiantly sitting in the “whites only” section of a Nova Scotia film house, will be the first Canadian woman to be featured on the country’s $10 bill.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz announced the selection of the groundbreaking beautician and businesswoman during an announcement today at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.
Desmond’s image will replace that of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, on the purple banknote beginning in 2018.
Morneau called her an “extraordinary woman.”
Desmond is often referred to as “Canada’s Rosa Parks,” though her historic act of defiance occurred nine years before Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala.
‘It’s a really big day to have my big sister on a banknote.’
– Wanda Robson, 89
At age 32, Desmond decided to go to the Roseland Theatre to see a movie while her car was getting fixed on Nov. 8, 1946, but she was thrown out of the “whites only” section and sent to jail. Black people could only sit in the balcony of the theatre.
The next morning, Desmond was convicted of defrauding the province of a one penny tax, the difference in tax between a downstairs and upstairs ticket, even though Desmond had asked to pay the one cent difference.
Desmond was released after paying a $20 fine and $6 in court costs. She appealed her conviction but lost.
Her court case was the first known legal challenge against racial segregation brought forward by a black woman in Canada, according to a Bank of Canada news release.
“Viola Desmond was a woman who broke down barriers, who provided inspiration to Canadians around social justice issues and showed that each and every one of us, individually, can make a difference,” Morneau said.
She was granted a free pardon posthumously in 2010 by former Nova Scotia lieutenant-governor Mayann Francis, the first black person to serve as the Queen’s representative in the province. The provincial government also issued a formal apology.
She died in 1965 at age 50.
Another iconic Canadian, who will be chosen at a later date, will be featured on a future $5 bill. Macdonald and Canada’s first francophone prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, will be featured on higher-value banknotes.
Those changes mean former prime ministers William Lyon Mackenzie King and Sir Robert Borden will no longer be featured on banknotes.
Desmond’s younger sister, Wanda Robson, who is now 89, has kept her legacy alive by giving interviews and writing a book about her story. She attended Thursday’s announcement, and expressed pride and gratitude on behalf of the family.