The new $10 bill featuring civil rights activist Viola Desmond has been unveiled. Viola is the first Black person to be featured on a Canadian bank note. pic.twitter.com/EgpJ8BYHqx— Norm Kelly (@norm) March 8, 2018
Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz and Finance Minister Bill Morneau revealed Canada’s newest $10 bill on Thursday and it features black civil rights activist Viola Desmond.
Desmond is best known for being arrested on Nov. 8, 1946, when she refused to sit in the black-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.
The bill was unveiled in a new vertical design. On one side, the polymer bill features a portrait of Desmond and a map of north end Halifax. On the other, it highlights the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.
"It was long past time for a bank note to feature an iconic Canadian woman,'' Poloz told a crowd at the Halifax Central Library on International Women's Day, according to the Canadian Press.
But the bill represents more than just women.
Desmond is the first black person and the first non-royal woman to be included on a regular Canadian bank note in circulation, according to the Canadian Press.
"It's a long-awaited sense of belonging for the African Canadian community," Executive Director of the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia Russell Grosse told the Canadian Press. "The launch of the bill sends people of African descent the message that Canada is finally accepting us. We belong."
Desmond’s story often goes untold, but the new bill shows recognition of her courageous act of defiance, and it offers a learning opportunity for Canadians to better understand a woman that greatly impacted the country’s civil rights movement.
This picture of Viola Desmond’s sister Wanda holding up the new $10 bill with Viola’s image is my everything right now pic.twitter.com/HFT4v7cEtl— Anne Thériault (@anne_theriault) March 8, 2018
Desmond is sometimes called the “Canadian Rosa Parks,” but her refusal to leave the whites-only section of the theatre actually happened almost 10 years before Parks refused to give up in her seat on a public bus in Alabama.
Desmond’s decision to stick to her seat in the theatre played an important role in Canada’s history and the new $10 bill serves as a reminder of that.
"It's a remarkable story. It really shows the progression of society, and that's one of the reasons why it seems to have gained this groundswell of interest over the last couple years," Grosse told the Canadian Press.
Desmond died in 1965 but she was awarded a posthumous free pardon in 2010 from the province of Nova Scotia, in recognition of the injustice, according to the Globe and Mail.
In Toronto, plans are being drawn up for a park to include Desmond’s name and both Montreal and Halifax are planning to name streets after her, according to the Canadian Press.
"It shows that society has come a long way from where it was. A lot of the times those things would have happened in shadows and they would have been ignored in the past,'' Grosse told the Canadian Press. "Now we're having frank discussions about what we can do about it. That's a step in the right direction.''
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