Canadians react to the new Viola Desmond $10 banknote
Published Thursday, December 8, 2016 9:38PM EST Last Updated Friday, December 9, 2016 2:08AM EST
A black Nova Scotian woman who refused to be ousted from a whites-only section of a segregated movie theater will grace the front of Canada’s new $10 banknote in 2018. The announcement by Finance Minister Bill Morneau on Thursday marks the first time a Canadian woman will be immortalized on the front of her country’s currency.
Viola Desmond’s courageous 1946 stand against institutionalized racism in Canada pre-dates U.S. civil rights icon Rosa Parks by nearly a decade.
The decision to honour Desmond’s legacy is being lauded as a pivotal step in raising awareness of Canada’s ongoing struggle to achieve racial and gender equality.
Here’s how some key commentators reacted:
Wanda Robson, Desmond’s sister
“I am so proud that my family and I are experiencing this. It’s a big day to have a woman on a banknote. It’s a really big day to have my big sister on a banknote.”
“She was a lady. If you wanted another person other than the Queen to be on a bill, you’ve chosen the right person. Viola was well spoken and dignified. She was elegant with perfect manners, and she treated everyone with respect.”
Anita Jack-Davies, Queens University adjunct professor and diversity expert
“Viola Desmond is someone who I think we can be proud of in terms of her triumphs and standing up to racial segregation at a time when she really put her life in danger. I see this as a story I could share with my daughter. It opens up conversations about not only race, but also gender as well.”
Danica Samuel, Ybility podcast host
“I feel like Viola Desmond is very much aligned with what millennials are doing. Protesting, being business women, and changing the narrative. (Students) are going to have to talk about who Viola Desmond is in class.”
Joel Ralph, Canada’s History, director of programs
“It’s a good reminder to Canadians that we have a lot of history of racism in Canada. This is not that long ago. In 1946, Viola Desmond was dealing with very institutionalized forms of segregation in Nova Scotia. To recognize her for challenging that, I think is really wonderful.”
Finance Minister Bill Morneau
“Viola Desmond's own story reminds all of us that big change can start with moments of dignity and bravery.”
"She represents courage, strength and determination-qualities we should all aspire to every day."
Professor Isaac Saney, senior instructor of black studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax
"When Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat, an entire mass civil rights movement was ignited ... That didn't exist in 1946. The civil rights movement hadn't taken off. This militant approach to politics didn't take off until the 1950s and 60s."
With files from The Canadian Press