Civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond was selected from the more than 26,000 submissions that rolled in after the Bank of Canada announced plans to put a Canadian woman on the country's circulating currency for the first time. But on International Women's Day, one woman didn't just get to see a female figure on a new bill-she saw her own sister.
Desmond, whose defiance against racism led to an arrest that was not pardoned until she passed away, will now be the face of Canada's $10 bill after an unveiling on Thursday (Mar. 8). "And well, I was speechless -my family would have liked that but for once in my life I was speechless", she said. "As we strive for equality across our economy and in every facet of our country, we hope this constant reminder of Viola's story will help inspire a new generation of women, men, girls and boys to fight for what they believe, take their place and create a better future for themselves and all Canadians". "Her legal challenge galvanized the black community in Halifax's north end and paved the way for a broader understanding of the importance of human rights across our country".
The bill marks a growing recognition of Desmond's refusal to leave the whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre on November 8, 1946 - almost a decade before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Alabama - and the seminal role it played in Canada's civil rights movement.
Canada's Finance Minister Bill Moreau and Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz assisted Robson with the unveiling.
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Desmond's story started with a business trip 71 years ago. It was a segregated space - floor seats were for white people while black people were relegated to the balcony.
Desmond, 32, was dragged out of the theatre by police and jailed for defiantly sitting in the "whites only" section of a film house. "It's attractive", she told an audience in Halifax. She died in 1965, but received Canada's first-ever posthumous apology and pardon in 2010.
"Viola Desmond carried out a singular act of courage", said Isaac Saney, a senior instructor of black studies at Dalhousie University. "She was ahead of the times".