Just a stone’s throw from where the late Nova Scotia civil rights pioneer and businesswoman Viola Desmond opened her Halifax business in 1937, history was made as the $10 bill featuring her image was officially launched.
A large crowd packed a room at the Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute in the city’s north end Monday where they listened to speeches before lining up to be among the first to exchange a “regular” $10 bill for one of the iconic new vertical $10 banknotes.
Desmond is the first Canadian woman to be featured on the front of a regularly circulating banknote.
“As you all know, Viola Desmond was an educated, ambitious, confident businesswoman well ahead of her time. … She discovered in 1946 that Canada was not ready to recognize that racism and segregation existed,” Monique LeBlanc, Atlantic Canada regional director (currency) for the Bank of Canada, told the crowd.
On Nov. 8, 1946, Desmond was arrested after refusing to leave a whites-only section of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, N.S. The incident became one of the most high-profile cases of racial discrimination in Canadian history.
“The recognition of the injustice she suffered was a long time in coming, sadly long after her death in 1965,” LeBlanc said.