Canadian Civil Rights Pioneer Will Appear On Country's $10 Bill : The Two-Way When Canada's new $10 bill comes out later this year, it will feature activist Viola Desmond, who will become the first non-royal woman and the first black Canadian on the country's currency.

Canadian Civil Rights Pioneer Will Appear On Country's $10 Bill

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Canada is giving its $10 bill a whole new look. And the woman featured on the note racks up a few firsts. Her name is Viola Desmond, and she once ran a salon and beauty school in Halifax. She is best known as the Canadian Rosa Parks. Her place in Canada's history centered on where she was and was not allowed to sit. Here is Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

BILL MORNEAU: Of course, she's best remembered for that night in 1946 when she wouldn't move from a seat in a movie theater that she had every right to occupy.


The downstairs seats were for whites, but that's where Desmond wanted to go. A video made by a Canadian historical society dramatizes what happened next.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: (As Viola Desmond) One down, please.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: (As ticket clerk) I can't sell downstairs tickets to you people.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: (As Viola Desmond) How dare they?

GREENE: Now, the theater charged Desmond for a balcony seat, but she took a spot downstairs anyway - a seat that cost a penny more. She was asked to move. She did not.

MARTIN: Eventually, the police dragged her out of the theater and arrested her. In a speech to a Canadian historical society, Desmond's sister, Wanda Robson, recalled that night.


WANDA ROBSON: When the word came to me that my sister had - had been in jail, my first - jail? And I hung my head down. Jail - I didn't want anybody to know.

MARTIN: Desmond was charged with tax evasion because of the 1 cent she didn't pay for a downstairs seat.

GREENE: She fought those charges in a long court battle that she eventually lost. Local, black-owned newspapers covered her story extensively. Again, Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

MORNEAU: Her legal challenge galvanized the black community in Halifax, North End, and paved the way for a broader understanding of the importance of human rights across our country.

MARTIN: Desmond is now recognized as a civil rights icon, credited with sparking the decision to outlaw segregation in her home province of Nova Scotia. But it wasn't until decades after her death in 1965 that she became a household name. In the early 2000s, Wanda Robson started campaigning for Desmond to be remembered.


ROBSON: I finally realize - all those years, people had made me realize just the magnificence and the importance of what she had done.

GREENE: Robson's efforts led to Desmond being pardoned in 2010, the first posthumous pardon in the history of Canada. And now to another first, the first black Canadian and the first non-royal woman to be featured on regular Canadian currency. The $10 dollar bill with Viola Desmond's portrait will come out later this year.


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