Toronto, Canada – Viola Desmond, a black civil rights leader who led a struggle against anti-black segregation and racism in Canada in the 1940s will be the first Canadian woman to figure on a banknote.
Desmond will appear on the Canadian $10 bill – replacing John A. MacDonald, the nation’s first prime minister (he will be moved to a higher bill) when new banknotes go into circulation in 2018, Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced on Thursday morning.
A successful businesswoman from a middle-class family, Desmond is best known for refusing to give up her seat in the “whites only” section of a cinema in Canada’s eastern province of Nova Scotia in 1946.
She was eventually dragged out of the segregated cinema by police, arrested, held in prison overnight, and forced to pay a fine, all for refusing to move to the upstairs balcony reserved for black people.
She was criminally charged with not paying a small tax that would normally apply on a downstairs ticket. But instead of letting the matter rest, Desmond decided to fight her conviction in court.
“Viola inspires us … today as she inspired people years ago,” said her sister Wanda Robson, who attended the announcement. “I’m so proud, I’m almost in tears.”
Her case was the first known legal challenge by a black woman against segregation laws in Canada.
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