Canada’s new $10 bill delivers a history lesson: How Viola Desmond led the fight against racism..

Nice bit in IMF’s recent edition of F&D:

A successful black businesswoman is jailed, convicted, and fined for refusing to leave a whites-only area of a movie theater in 1946. Local Baptist church leaders step in to lend assistance. An appeal proceeds through the court system, but ultimately proves unsuccessful. Sixty years on, a government apology and posthumous pardon attempt to right the wrong.

A page torn from a history book recording events from the southern United States? Not quite.

While reminiscent of incidents that occurred much farther south in the early part of the 20th century, the episode transpired in Nova Scotia, one of the maritime provinces on the east coast of Canada.

Viola Desmond and her court case became an inspiration for the pursuit of racial equality across Canada. A testament to an oft neglected but marked moment in Canadian history, her likeness now appears on Canada’s $10 banknote.

….

When Desmond purchased her ticket at the movie theater that day in 1946, she received admission to the balcony—the seating generally reserved for nonwhite customers. But being nearsighted, and unaware of the policy, she went to sit in the floor section to be closer to the screen. A ticket taker noted her ticket was for upstairs seating, so she returned to the ticket counter to purchase a floor seat. Denied the purchase and realizing that her request was refused because of her race, she decided to sit on the main floor anyway. The police were called, and she was forcibly removed from the theater, injuring her hip, before she spent 12 hours in jail and paid the $20 fine.

While no laws existed in Nova Scotia to enforce segregation at the time, no court in the province had ruled on the legality of discriminatory policies in hotels, theaters, or restaurants. The tax on the balcony price of 20 cents was 2 cents; the tax on the floor price of 40 cents was 3 cents. In the end, Desmond was convicted of depriving the government of a penny in tax.

“In 1946, Viola Desmond took a courageous stand against injustice that helped inspire a movement for equality and social justice in Canada,” said Jennifer O’Connell, parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance, who spoke at the $10 banknote event. “More than 70 years later, we honor her as the first Canadian woman to appear on a [regularly circulating] banknote and hope her story inspires the next generation of Canadians to follow in her footsteps.”

Superb. The new vertical note also looks quite trendy:

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