Civil rights pioneer and businesswoman Viola Desmond is a household name, but now her face will be even more recognizable as the first Canadian woman to be featured on a regularly circulating banknote.
Voila’s sister was the Guest of Honour. Wanda Robson seemed to struggle for a moment to find the right words to express her feelings.
But when she did, they were prefect. “A woman, a black woman is on a $10 bill. The Queen is in good company,” said Wanda Robson, truly a remarkable woman. She will be 92 years old next month.
The area where Desmond grew up is also prominently featured on the new bill and the community came together to celebrate.
About 200 people gathered/ crammed into the Delmore Buddy Daye learning institution here, for the official launch of the Viola Desmond Bill which also took place thousands of kilometers away in Winnipeg.
It was perhaps fitting that the formal launch for the Viola Desmond $10 Bill took at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, a city where she is largely unknown at least for now.
Stephen Poloz, Bank of Canada Governor, said, “The choice of Voila Desmond has touched off conversations about Human Rights across Canada. As well as celebrations of the life of this remarable woman, especially in the North end of Halifax.”
A tribute in song at the Halifax event, a preview of a new musical opening of this week a part of ongoing celebrations to mark a truly historic event.
And in the North end of Halifax, where she ran a successful business, quiet tributes in doorway’s and store front.
We’ll never know if Desmond set out to be a civil Rights Pioneer, but her quiet act of defiance in refusing to leave white’s only section of a theatre in New Glasgow on November 8th, 1946, certainly made her one.
Righting an old wrong, it would take 63 years for Nova Scotia government to issue a posthumous apology and pardon.
The bank’s decision to make her the first non-royal woman to appear on a regularly circulating bank note came after receiving 25,000 suggestions from coast to coast.
And as the bill now starts appearing in banks and retail stores across the country, it is a special pride for those in her hometown.
Desmond has received numerous posthumous accolades, including having a Halifax Transit ferry named after her and receiving a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.