New $10 bill features Canadian civil rights icon Viola Desmond

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On International Women's Day, a prominent woman from Atlantic Canada is being honoured as a civil rights icon with the unveiling of a new $10 bill.

It also happens to be Canada's first ever "vertical" bank note. Now, 72 years later, Desmond has become the first Black person and the first non-royal woman to be on a regularly-circulated Canada bill.

Desmond made her mark in history on November 8, 1946 when she took on segregation in the province of Nova Scotia.

New $10 Canadian bill…YouTube
New $10 Canadian bill…YouTube

Speaking at a ceremony in Halifax, Desmond's sister Wanda Robson told the crowd she was delighted to see her sister on Canadian currency.

The new currency was brought out on International Women's Day, and shakes up a history where the main female face was Queen Elizabeth II, while numerous others were white men such as former prime ministers.

In 1954, Nova Scotia ended segregation, a move partially driven by Desmond's case. Poloz says it was long past time for a bank note to feature an iconic Canadian woman.

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In addition, the law stresses the importance of its role in the civil rights movement in Canada.

The new C$10 bank note featuring Viola Desmond.

"When young people see Viola Desmond they'll be able to ask 'Who is this particular person, ' so it becomes a teachable moment", Saney said.

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"We know more about Rosa Parks than Viola Desmond", he said. Desmond, suffering from myopia and not seen anything from the back row, sat on one of the seats for whites and refused to leave. After being released on a $20 fine and $6 in court costs, Desmond appealed her conviction but lost.

"I said, it's a $10 bill, she's on the $10 bill!"

It would take 63 years for Nova Scotia to issue Desmond, who died in 1965, a posthumous apology and pardon.

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