OTTAWA - Viola Desmond, a black businesswoman who challenged racial segregation in Canada in 1946, will be the new face of the C$10 bill, making her the first Canadian woman to be featured on a bank note.

Desmond refused to leave a whites-only area of a Nova Scotia movie theater in an incident that took place nearly a decade before Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the segregated part of a bus in the United States. Desmond was subsequently jailed, convicted and fined.

The selection of Desmond for the commonly used bill will bring the role of black people in Canada’s history to the fore, according to Queen’s University historian Barrington Walker.

“It shows that Canada is increasingly willing to acknowledge the civil rights challenges that black Canadians faced in the past,” he said. “In very short order, she will become a household name.”


Desmond will replace John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, when the new bill debuts in late 2018. Macdonald will be moved to a higher bill, as will Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s first francophone prime minister, when the government redesigns the C$5 bill.