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The Bank of Canada has been talking for a long time about putting a woman on the $10 bill and finally, for International Women’s Day, they unveiled the brand new design. The new vertical bill features Civil Rights icon Viola Desmond, making her the first black person and first non-royal woman to be featured on a regularly-circulating Canadian bank note. On the reverse side is a picture of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Viola’s sister, Wanda Robson helped with the unveiling.

Desmond was a Canadian beautician and entrepreneur who sold her own line of cosmetics. In 1946, she went to the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, NS to watch a movie after her car broke down on the way to Sydney. The segregated theatre had designated floor seating as whites-only, but the shortsighted Desmond couldn’t see the film properly from the balcony so she sat in the restricted section. When she refused to leave her seat, she was forcibly removed by police, arrested, held for 12 hours and fined. That was almost a decade before Rosa Parks’ bus protest.

According to the Bank of Canada bill summary, Desmond’s “court case was an inspiration for the pursuit of racial equality across Canada” and her “story is part of the permanent collection at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.” The Museum is the first in the world “dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights.”

The $10 note also features a quotation from Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which reads, “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.”

Wanda Robson is an activist herself and speaks on her sister’s legacy regularly. It is partly because of her that Desmond is gracing the new $10. Last week, Robson was given a sneak peak at the bank note and her reaction was priceless.

“I was speechless, my family would have liked that,” Robson recalled at the unveiling, “For once in my life, I was speechless. This is beyond- beyond what I ever thought.

“Then I looked at it again and I said, ‘It’s amazing. It’s beautiful. It’s unique’ . . . and I give the artist so much credit. So much credit. I wish I could have done it,” she added.

Viola Desmond died in 1965 and was posthumously issued a pardon and apology in 2010.