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$10 Banknote Featuring Viola Desmond, the Rosa Parks of Canada, Set to Go Into Circulation

A Canadian banknote featuring the face of a Black woman who was thrown out of a whites-only movie theater seven decades ago is set to go into circulation in another week.

On Nov. 8, 1946, police dragged Viola Desmond out of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, whereupon she was arrested, jailed and fined. Desmond died in 1965, but her legacy in Canadian history remains alive. The civil rights advocate who pushed for an end to racial segregation will become the first Canadian woman to be featured on a circulating banknote. The new $10 paper currency will feature Desmond’s portrait and an atlas of the historic north end of Halifax, Nova Scotia, the site where she opened her salon that started what became a line of businesses centered on the hair and cosmetics industries.  She would go on to become a mentor to Black women from across the nation.

“I’m hoping having Viola on the bill will prompt people to want to know what’s the story behind her, because still, there’s a lot of people who have no idea who she was and what she stands for,” Irvine Carvery, 65, told 660 News. “Being on the $10 bill, people might want to say, ‘who is that person? Let me do a little research.'”

Viola Desmond

Wanda Robson, sister of Viola Desmond, is pictured holding the new $10 banknote of her sister.
(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese)

Carvery who lives nearby Desmond’s childhood home, said he’s excited that the banknote will pay tribute the civil rights pioneer and called it a “historic moment.”

Desmond’s sibling, Wanda Robson, said her sister overcame many hardships and hurdles that blocked her from pursuing her career. Many times Desmond was unable to attend certain institutions because the color of her skin.

The bill featuring Desmond was first unveiled by Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz in Halifax on March 8, which marks “International Women’s Day.”

The banknote follows after a series of posthumous accolades for Desmond. She was honored with a Canada’s Walk of Fame star in June at the Halifax Ferry Terminal.

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