Culture&Arts

Civil Rights Figure Viola Desmond Is The Face Of Canada's $10 Bill

Civil Rights Figure Viola Desmond Is The Face Of Canada's $10 Bill

Civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond was selected from the more than 26,000 submissions that rolled in after the Bank of Canada announced plans to put a Canadian woman on the country's circulating currency for the first time.

Desmond's sister Wanda Robson removed a black cloth from an enlarged image of the new bill's design at the Halifax Central Library. She was required to receive cosmetology training in Montreal, Atlantic City, and one of Madam C.J. Walker's schools in NY due to discrimination. It was a segregated space - floor seats were for white people while black people were relegated to the balcony.

The civil rights activist was convicted of defrauding the province of a one-penny tax, the difference in tax between a downstairs and upstairs ticket, even though Desmond had asked to pay the difference.

The incident that would propel her into Canada's history books took place in 1946 after her vehicle broke down in New Glasgow, some 100 miles north-east of Halifax, while on a business trip.

In 1954, Nova Scotia ended segregation, a move partially driven by Desmond's case.

The Bank of Canada has hidden an aptly named "Inflation Busters" video game on its website promoting the country's new $10 bill. "It's beyond what I ever thought".

The story of Desmond by and large was unknown for half a century, but in recent years the image of this courageous woman appeared on a stamp, and her name is ferry in Halifax harbour.

"I have a daughter who's eight, and she'll be able to look at a bank note and see a woman who reflects her, an African Nova Scotian woman who stood up for her rights and now is being commemorated on a bank note", he said.

"We know more about Rosa Parks than Viola Desmond", he said.

She was dragged out of the theatre by police, arrested, thrown in jail for 12 hours and fined. Desmond, a beautician and entrepreneur from north end Halifax who sold her own line of cosmetics, was headed to Sydney, N.S., when her vehicle broke down. "She's not leading the movement because he was ahead of his time".

In 2010, the government of Nova Scotia issued an apology to Desmond, for prosecuting her and acknowledged her courage in resisting racial discrimination. And when I say suffered, I don't mean that you just couldn't do anything anymore.


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