It was a historic day for Canada as the new $10 vertical bill featuring civil rights icon Viola Desmond entered circulation on November 19.
Once again the Canadian government is breaking new ground by adding an African-Canadian woman on a banknote. Viola Desmond was a successful business owner arrested when she refused to leave a whites-only area of a movie theatre in Glasgow, N.S. in 1946. While waiting for her car to be repaired one evening she went to a nearby movie theatre, but Desmond was unaware the main floor was only for white customers. When she refused the request of the staff to go up to the balcony, the police were called. She was later charged with defrauding the Government of Nova Scotia since there was a difference in price for the main floor and balcony sections. There was a one cent difference in price, but Desmond was fined $20. Sixty-three years later the government of Nova Scotia officially apologized and granted a pardon in the presence of her surviving family.
Earlier this year, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz unveiled the vertical banknote during a ceremony at the Halifax Central Library. In a statement, the Finance Minister reiterated the importance of equality throughout Canada, “we hope this constant reminder of Viola’s story will help inspire a new generation of women, men, girls and boys to fight for what they believe, take their place and create a better future for themselves and all Canadians,” On the first day of circulation, Desmond’s 91-year-old sister, Wanda Robson, said she was grateful and happy for the historic moment.
Canadians from across the country are applauding the government for featuring a woman on a regular circulating banknote. MinMaxx co-founder and 2015 federal Liberal candidate (Milton), Azim Rizvee, also expressed how pleased he was about this historic day, “as a father of an ambitious young lady, it is encouraging to see our government giving such high honors to a courageous Canadian woman,” Azim said. “This is another testament to our government’s dedication to equality for all, regardless of gender or race.”
There was a special ceremony on November 19th at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg to commemorate the first day of circulation. Robson planned to use the new $10 bill toward a book she co-authored with Cape Breton University professor Graham Reynolds about her sister’s civil rights journey.