Global News

Black Civil Rights Activist Viola Desmond's Portrait Finally Graces Canadian Bill

Black Civil Rights Activist Viola Desmond's Portrait Finally Graces Canadian Bill

Seventy-two years after Viola Desmond went to jail for sitting in the wrong section of a movie theater, her efforts fighting for civil rights are being recognized.

As well, a prominent image of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) will be featured on the new $10 bank note as a symbol of Canada's ongoing pursuit of rights and freedoms.An external fa├žade of the CMHR, overlaid on an image of its glowing alabaster rampways, will be portrayed on the back, alongside an excerpt from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and an eagle feather representing the continuing struggle for recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. "Hers is a story that all Canadians need to know and one that we are honoured to share".

This new note was presented by Canada's Minister of Finance Bill Murneau on March 8th and will be a vertical note that in addition to having the image of Viola Desmond, it will also have the historic map of Halifax, this is a representation of the Canadian Museum for Civil Rights in Winnipeg.

"This note ... is a reflection of the museum's objective to enhance the public's understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others and to encourage reflection and dialogue", Young said in his remarks, which were shown live at the CMHR. In the 1930s and 40s, Canadian beauty schools were restricted to white women; Desmond relocated to Atlantic City, New Jersey to earn her degree from the Apex College of Beauty Culture and Hairdressing.




"It was long past time for a bank note to feature an iconic Canadian woman", Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz told the large crowd gathered at the Halifax Central Library on International Women's Day despite a blustery snowstorm and flickering power. The CMHR will become the first museum ever pictured on a Canadian bank note.

Desmond refused to leave the whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre on November 8, 1946 - almost a decade before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Alabama, according to the Toronto Star. So she bought a ticket for the balcony, where seats were one-cent cheaper, and sat in the floor area anyway.

Segregation was legally ended in Nova Scotia in 1954, in part because of the publicity generated by Desmond's case. "And to think, it's on my sister's bill". Although Queen Elizabeth II appears on a lot of Canadian currency, Desmond will be the first Canadian-born woman to do so.

The resulting purple $10 polymer bill is also the first vertically oriented bank note issued in Canada. Her bills are expected to be in circulation by the end of the year.


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