November 12, 2018
Alex Cooke, CTV News
A new $10 banknote featuring Viola Desmond’s portrait will go into circulation in a week, just over 72 years after she was ousted from the whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, N.S.
The civil rights pioneer and businesswoman is the first Canadian woman to be featured on a regularly circulating banknote, which will also show a map of Halifax’s historic north end, home to one of Canada’s oldest black communities and the site where Desmond opened her first salon.
Irvine Carvery, a prominent member of Halifax’s north end and a former school board chair, said he’s excited that the bill will pay tribute to her, describing the inclusion of a black woman on the note as “a historic moment.”
“What it means is that there’s recognition in terms of the struggle that we, as African Canadians have gone through for all of our years of being here,” he said.
“That was a pinnacle event, down in New Glasgow, when she refused to give up her seat. So to put her on the bill is, for me, a recognition that those struggles were real, and they continue through to today.”
Carvery, 65, lives a stone’s throw from Desmond’s childhood home in north end Halifax and hopes to eventually see a commemorative marker on the house.
On Nov. 8, 1946 — nearly a decade before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Alabama — Desmond was dragged out of the Roseland Theatre by police, arrested, thrown in jail for 12 hours and fined.
It would take 63 years for Nova Scotia to issue Desmond, who died in 1965, a posthumous apology and free pardon.
Carvery said he hopes the new bill will inspire young girls to pursue their dreams and push back against injustice, adding that he believes it will raise awareness for who Desmond was and what she accomplished.
“I’m hoping having Viola on the bill will prompt people to want to know what’s the story behind her, because still, there’s a lot of people who have no idea who she was and what she stands for,” he said.
“Being on the $10 bill, people might want to say, ‘who is that person? Let me do a little research.”‘