African Canadian rights activist, Viola Desmond becomes first Canadian woman on $10 banknote

Viola Desmond

Canada’s Finance Minister says Viola Desmond will appear on Canada’s new CAD$10 banknote.

Viola Desmond, often described as Canada’s Rosa Parks for her 1946 decision to sit in a whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theater, will be the first woman to be celebrated on the face of a Canadian banknote.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says Desmond will grace the front of the CAD$10 bill when the next series goes into circulation in 2018.

“Today is about recognizing the incalculable contribution that all women have had and continue to have in shaping Canada’s story. Viola Desmond’s own story reminds all of us that big change can start with moments of dignity and bravery,” Morneau told a news conference in Gatineau, Quebec.

“She represents courage, strength and determination-qualities we should all aspire to every day.”

Desmond’s sister Wanda Robson, who was instrumental in making Desmond’s story more widely known, was on hand for the announcement.
“It is a big day to have a woman on a bank note, but it’s an especially big day to have your big sister on a bank note,” she said. “Our family is extremely proud and honored.”

Others on the short list were poet E. Pauline Johnson; Elsie MacGill, who received an electrical engineering degree from the University of Toronto in 1927; Quebec suffragette Idola Saint-Jean; and 1928 Olympic medalist Fanny Rosenfeld, a track and field athlete.

There were more than 26,000 submissions from the public, which was later whittled down to 461 eligible nominees who had Canadian citizenship and had been dead for at least 25 years.

Watch: Viola Desmond | New Face on Canada’s $10 Bill, courtesy of CBC News:

The Bank of Canada’s independent advisory council said it was looking for nominees who overcame barriers, inspired others or left a lasting legacy.
By every measure, Desmond fits that bill.

A businesswoman turned civil libertarian, Desmond built a business as a beautician and, through her beauty school, was a mentor to young black women in the province of Nova Scotia.

It was in 1946 when she rejected racial discrimination by sitting in a whites-only section of a New Glasgow movie theater. She was arrested and fined; her actions inspired later generations of black people in Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada.

“She believed you could only be successful in life with an education, especially if you were a young black person,” Robson said. “If you wanted another lady, other than the Queen, to be on the bill, you’ve chosen the right person. At least, I think so.”

The Bank of Canada’s advisory council received more than 18,000 submissions during a public call for nominations earlier this year.

Source: The Canadian Press