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New $10 bill unveiled, featuring civil rights icon Viola Desmond

10 March 2018

For the first time ever, a black civil rights icon is on a regularly circulating Canadian bank note - a new $10 bill featuring civil rights icon Viola Desmond has been unveiled.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz were also on hand for the unveiling.

"It was long past time for a banknote to feature an iconic Canadian woman", Poloz 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".

"One woman's actions can really make a difference", Robson, 91, said in the video of her sneak preview, shared by the Bank of Canada.

In 1946, Desmond refused to leave the whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre.

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According to the Bank of Canada, Desmond's court case was the first known legal challenge against racial segregation brought forward by a black woman in Canada.

The back of the $10 bank note features the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Isaac Saney, a senior instructor of black studies at Dalhousie University, said many Canadians are unaware that slavery and segregation existed here, and often know more about USA civil rights icons than those in Canada. It was a segregated space - floor seats were for white people while black people were relegated to the balcony. "She's just one of many of us who have suffered". Desmond, a beautician and entrepreneur from north end Halifax who sold her own line of cosmetics, was headed to Sydney, N.S., when her auto broke down. Her stand predates Rosa Parks' similar action on an Alabama bus by almost a decade. Desmond was dragged out of the theatre and arrested, ultimately spending 12 hours in jail.

"Viola Desmond carried out a singular act of courage", said Isaac Saney, a senior instructor of black studies at Dalhousie University. Nova Scotia issued a posthumous pardon to her in 2009, decades after her protest and 1965 death.

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

New $10 bill unveiled, featuring civil rights icon Viola Desmond