Wanda Robson, the sister of Viola Desmond, smiles as the new $10 featuring her sister Viola Desmond is unveiled.
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"The Minister of Finance and I agreed it was long past time for a bank note to feature an iconic Canadian woman. But it is an important story, because it shows that standing up for what we believe, whether it's on the step of Parliament Hill or in a movie theatre in New Glasgow, N.S., can make our country and our world a better place for future generations".
The incident that would propel her into Canada's history books took place in 1946 after her auto broke down in New Glasgow, some 100 miles north-east of Halifax, while on a business trip.
For background, in November 1946, Desmond was waiting for her vehicle to be repaired after traveling to New Glasgow. It includes a portrait of Desmond, who is the first black person and the first non-royal woman, on a regularly circulating Canadian bank note.
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Isaac Saney, a senior instructor of black studies at Dalhousie University, said many Canadians are unaware that slavery and segregation existed here, and often know more about USA civil rights icons than those in Canada.
Desmond became famous because of a business trip made her 71 years ago.
Apart from being an activist, Desmond was also a beautician and developed her own line of beauty products, Vi's Beauty Products. Desmond, who had a white mother and Black father, sat in the "whites only" section of the theater instead of the balcony. Her stand predates Rosa Parks' similar action on an Alabama bus by almost a decade.
"Viola Desmond carried out a singular act of courage", said Isaac Saney, a senior instructor of black studies at Dalhousie University.
In 2010, more than six decades after she was arrested, Nova Scotia apologised to Desmond and pardoned her - a posthumous pardon signed into law by Mayann Francis, the province's first African Nova Scotian lieutenant-governor. "She's not leading the movement because he was ahead of his time".