The launch of of the new $10 bill Nov. 19 is a double tribute to the power of one determined person. The banknote carries a portrait of Viola Desmond, the first Canadian woman to be featured alone on our nation’s currency.
The black businesswoman from New Glasgow, N.S., was arrested in 1946 after choosing to sit in the whites-only section of a movie theatre. She was arrested and spent the night in jail. She was charged with depriving the province of its share of the amusement tax that would have accrued from the one-cent difference between the balcony ticket and the main-floor ticket.
Desmond paid a $20 fine, plus $6 in court costs, but decided to sue the theatre. She did not win the lawsuit, but her actions brought attention to the discrimination black people faced in Nova Scotia, and started a process of positive change.
Instead of complaining that one person cannot make a difference, Desmond stood up for what was right.
Merna Forster, a Victoria-based historian, also believes that one person can make a difference. She has pressured the Bank of Canada and Parliament for nearly a decade for inclusion of notable women on Canadian currency. She insists there are many women in Canadian history worthy of the honour, and in a 2011 column in the Times Colonist, she listed nine of them, including Desmond.
Despite encountering bureaucratic apathy and stalling, Foster persevered. Last week’s announcement is a validation of her efforts, and further proof that one person can bring about change for the better.
An editorial from the Victoria Times Colonist