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Viola Desmond‘s name may not ring bells here in the states but for our neighbors to the North, she’s a prominent part of Canada‘s civil rights history. Desmond, whose defiance against racism led to an arrest that was not pardoned until she passed away, will now be the face of Canada’s $10 bill after an unveiling on Thursday (Mar. 8).

The Toronto Star reports:

A new $10 bill featuring Desmond was unveiled by Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz.

The purple polymer bill — the first vertically oriented bank note issued in Canada — includes a portrait of Desmond and a historic map of north end Halifax on one side and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg on the other.

“It was long past time for a bank note to feature an iconic Canadian woman,” Poloz told the large crowd gathered at the Halifax Central Library on International Women’s Day despite a blustery snowstorm and flickering power. “That’s been a goal of mine since I became governor.”

Morneau said the deck was “doubly stacked” against Desmond because of her gender and the colour of her skin. He said she stood up for what she believed in and helped make the country a better place.

For background, in November 1946, Desmond was waiting for her car to be repaired after traveling to New Glasgow. To pass the time, Desmond, a hairdresser and business owner, decided to take in a movie. When she was asked to sit in a Blacks-only balcony section, Desmond refused to move and she was arrested.

A fight in Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court led by the local NAACP was unsuccessful, and the charge hung over Desmond’s head even after her death in 1965. Canada posthumously pardoned Desmond in 2010, and the country has honored her several times over the years since her passing with a stamp and plans to name a park after her.

Photo: Getty

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