Black Canadian civil rights activist, Viola Desmond‘s portrait, now graces the Canadian 10-dollar bill.
On Thursday, Desmond’s sister Wanda Robson, who is in her 90’s, unveiled Canada’s first currency note featuring a Black person. “It’s beyond what I ever thought. It’s beautiful,” she told an audience in Halifax, according to the Guardian.
“Our banknotes are designed not only to be a secure and durable means of payment but also to be works of art that tell the stories of Canada. This new $10 fits that bill,” Bank of Canada Governor, Stephen Poloz, said, in a statement. “I’m immensely proud of all the innovation that went into this note.”
Desmond also referred to as the “Canadian Rosa Parks” was a fierce entrepreneur at a time when very few schools would admit Black students. She sold her own line of hair and skin products.
Desmond, who is featured in Canadian history books, is most known for her resistance to sit in the ‘segregated’ area of a movie theater. In 1946, as Desmond was returning from a business trip, her car broke down, in New Glasgow, some 100 miles north-east of Halifax.
She gave her car for repair nearby and decided to spend the time she was waiting for her car to watch a movie. The local theater which only sold the floor tickets to white people denied her request to buy a floor ticket. Desmond bought a ticket for the balcony, where the tax on the seats was one-cent cheaper, but sat in the floor area anyway.
She was later taken away by the police and was made to spend 12 hours in jail. Years later, Desmond was charged with tax evasion over the single penny of the more expensive theatre ticket, which she was originally refused by the theatre.
Almost six decades later, in 2010, Nova Scotia apologized to Desmond posthumously by signing a pardon into law by Mayann Francis, the province’s first African Nova Scotian lieutenant-governor.
In 2016, with over 26,000 submissions for a public inquiry, Desmond was one of the only 461 eligible nominees who made it to the shortlist for the coveted position, and later won a popular vote on who should be featured on the bill.