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Activist Viola Desmond to be 1st Canadian woman on $10 bill

Submitted by on December 11, 2016 – 11:10 amNo Comment

Black rights activist Viola Desmond, who was jailed for defiantly sitting in the “whites only” section of a Nova Scotia film house, will be the first Canadian woman featured on the country’s $10 bill. Her image will replace that of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, on the purple banknote beginning in 2018.

Desmond is often referred to as “Canada’s Rosa Parks,” though her act of defiance occurred a full 9 years before Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala.

At age 32, Desmond entered the Roseland Theatre to see a movie while her car was getting fixed on Nov. 8, 1946, but she was thrown out of the “whites only” section and sent to jail. Black people could only sit in the balcony of the theatre. The next morning, Desmond was convicted of defrauding the province of a one penny tax, the difference in tax between a downstairs and upstairs ticket, even though Desmond had asked to pay the one cent difference.

Desmond was released after paying a $20 fine and $6 in court costs. She appealed her conviction but lost.

Racial segregation challenge

Her court case was the first known legal challenge against racial segregation brought forward by a black woman in Canada.

She was finally granted a pardon in 2010 by former Nova Scotia lieutenant-governor Mayann Francis, the first black person to serve as the Queen’s representative in the province. The provincial government also issued a formal apology. Viola Desmond died in 1965 at age 50.


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