New $10 bill featuring civil rights activist Viola Desmond debuts today

10 March, 2018, 01:37 | Author: Kristine Mills
  • Officials set to unveil new $10 bill featuring Viola Desmond

The Canadian government introduced a new $10 bill featuring civil rights icon Viola Desmond on International Women's day.

The bill is also the first vertical note ever issued by the Bank of Canada. The bill marks a growing recognition of Desmond's refusal to leave the whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre back in 1946.

"It's a long-awaited sense of belonging for the African Canadian community", said Russell Grosse, executive director of the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia. In addition, the law stresses the importance of its role in the civil rights movement in Canada. Her name now graces a Halifax Transit harbour ferry, a Canada Post stamp, and there are plans for streets named in her honour in Montreal and Halifax and a park in Toronto. She was required to receive cosmetology training in Montreal, Atlantic City, and one of Madam C.J. Walker's schools in NY due to discrimination. Desmond, a beautician and entrepreneur, selling her own line of cosmetics, heading to Sydney, Nova Scotia when her vehicle broke down.

After being forced to travel to Montreal, Atlantic City and NY for training, she returned to Halifax and opened a beauty school aimed at offering black people a local option for training.

"We know more about Rosa Parks than Viola Desmond", he said.

Desmond's story started with a business trip 71 years ago. "It's handsome", she told an audience in Halifax. That was the day when she entered a theater in the town of Glasgow and made a decision to sit in the "White' Only" section instead of the balcony where "colored people" were relegated. Her stand predates Rosa Parks' similar action on an Alabama bus by almost a decade.

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She was dragged out of the theatre by police, arrested, thrown in jail for 12 hours and fined.

"Viola Desmond carried out a singular act of courage", said Isaac Saney, a senior instructor of black studies at Dalhousie University.

Looking to kill time while her vehicle was being repaired, she stopped by a local movie theatre.

Desmond died in 1965 and Nova Scotia issued a posthumous apology and pardon in 2010.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you for that", she said on Thursday.

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