Canada is taking steps to make their currency more representative by introducing the first woman to their notes. Viola Desmond, a Canadian civil rights icon, will be featured on the $10 note, taking the place of John A Macdonald, the country’s first prime minister. Macdonald will move to a higher currency when the change happens in 2018.
In 1946, 10 years before Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus, Viola Desmond made history by refusing to leave her seat in a movie theater for being black, which led to her arrest, according to The Guardian.
“Viola Desmond is a woman who broke barriers, who provided an inspiration for Canadians around social justice issues and showed that each of us individually in courageous moments can make a difference,” said Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
Although the Queen of England appears on multiple Canadian banknotes, Desmond will become the first Canadian woman to appear on one.
“It shows that Canada is increasingly willing to acknowledge the civil rights challenges that black Canadians faced in the past,” said Queen’s University historian Barrington Walker. “In very short order, she will become a household name.”
The Canadian government made an open call for submissions of women to be featured on new banknotes in an effort to welcome diversity and gender equality. Desmond, who died in 1965 after settling in New York, was chosen out of thousands of submissions.
“Viola inspires us … today as she inspired people years ago,” said her sister Wanda Robson. “I’m so proud, I’m almost in tears.”
There are also plans to change Canada’s $5 note and will begin a similar search for a replacement.
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