It’s finally happening, Canada. A woman will most definitely be featured on our new $10 banknotes, and her name is Viola Desmond.
After months of speculation and over 26,000 submissions sent in to the Bank of Canada, the Minister of Finance announced on Dec. 8 that Desmond, a Nova Scotian black civil rights activist, would be honoured.
Desmond, who was born in 1914, is sometimes known as the “Canadian Rosa Parks.” However, her act of defiance against racial segregation actually happened nine years before Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., according to the CBC. In 1946, the then 32-year-old businesswoman refused to leave a whites-only area of a movie theatre and she was jailed, convicted and fined as a result.
The Bank of Canada says her court case was the first known legal challenge against racial segregation brought forth by a black woman in Canada. Desmond was unable to fight off the conviction, but in April of 2010–45 years after her death–she finally received a posthumous free pardon. This wonderful Heritage Moment by Historica Canada perfectly sums up Viola’s fight for civil rights in Nova Scotia and Canada:
Viola’s younger sister Wanda Robson held a presentation following the banknote announcement and said (in the video above), “One time, I went to a school and there were two little girls there–one girl black, one girl white–with their arms around each others shoulders. ‘We’re best friends,’ they said. Then they told me how Viola had inspired them. Well those two little girls inspired me, as they should in all of us…I’m so proud, I’m almost to tears.”
The Bank will now begin designing the $10 bill, and it’s expected to come out in late 2018. We can’t wait.