Wanda Robson, sister of Viola Desmond, unveils the new $10 bank note, featuring Desmond, with Canadian Minister of Finance Bill Morneau in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on March 8, 2018.
Wanda Robson, sister of Viola Desmond, unveils the new $10 bank note, featuring Desmond, with Canadian Minister of Finance Bill Morneau in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on March 8, 2018.
Screenshot: the Canadian Press (video from the Toronto Star)

While Americans are still waiting to deposit Harriet Tubmans in their bank accounts, our neighbors to the north have just unveiled a new $10 bill that features their own civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond.

Advertisement

As the Toronto Star reports, Desmond was honored Thursday in a ceremony in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the new bill was unveiled. She’s the first black person to grace Canadian money, and the first nonroyal woman.

Desmond was picked for her seminal role in Canada’s civil rights movement. In November 1946, she refused to leave a whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theater. Authorities had to drag her out of the theater, and Desmond was thrown in jail for 12 hours and fined for her disobedience. Her actions predate those of her better-known counterpart, Rosa Parks, by nearly a decade, the Star notes.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled In Canada, You Can Now Use Bills With a Black Woman on Them
Photo: Bank of Canada

The purple note does more than mark a dramatic first (it’s also the first vertically oriented bill in Canada’s history). It could popularize a part of Canadian history that is overlooked or downright forgotten.

Isaac Saney, a senior instructor of black studies at Dalhousie University, told the Star that many Canadians don’t know that slavery and segregation existed in their country, and are far more familiar with America’s civil rights history and its icons.

“We know more about Rosa Parks than Viola Desmond,” Saney said. “We know more about Martin Luther King than perhaps we know about W.P. Oliver”—a social justice advocate and reverend.

Advertisement

Canadians can start stacking and spending their Desmonds at the end of the year, when the bill enters circulation.

Staff writer, The Root.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

Hoo boy. I can NOT wait for the right-wing Canadians to chime in on this development.