Viola Desmond takes her place as Canadian civil rights icon with new $10 bill

Published on : March 8, 2018 3:31




Viola Desmond’s trailblazing act of defiance overlooked for decades by most Canadians – was to be honoured Thursday in a Halifax ceremony that cements her new status as a civil rights icon.

A new $10 bill featuring Desmond was to be unveiled over the noon hour by Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz.

Desmond becomes the first black person – and the first non-royal woman – on a regularly circulating Canadian bank note.

“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.

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The bill marks a growing recognition of Desmond’s refusal to leave the whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre on Nov. 8, 1946 – nearly 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.

While her civil disobedience was remarkable, Grosse said racial segregation and systemic discrimination was once commonplace in Nova Scotia.

“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.

He said, “That’s what makes the new $10 bill such a powerful act of acceptance.”