Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz unveiled the redesigned currency at a ceremony in Halifax on Thursday. 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.
Desmond made her mark in history on November 8, 1946 when she took on segregation in the province of Nova Scotia.
"It's a long-awaited sense of belonging for the African Canadian community", said Russell Grosse, executive director of the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia.
The story of Desmond by and large was unknown for half a century, but in recent years the image of this courageous woman appeared on a stamp, and her name is ferry in Halifax harbour. In addition, the law stresses the importance of its role in the civil rights movement in Canada. Left in new Glasgow for the night, she made a decision to watch a movie in the cinema Roseland Theatre.
After being forced to travel to Montreal, Atlantic City and NY for training, she returned to Halifax and opened a beauty school aimed at offering black people a local option for training.
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Instead, she sat in the whites only section and was arrested and fined.
In 1954, Nova Scotia ended segregation, a move partially driven by Desmond's case.
"We know more about Rosa Parks than Viola Desmond", he said. Desmond, a beautician and entrepreneur from north end Halifax who sold her own line of cosmetics, was headed to Sydney, N.S., when her vehicle broke down.
Looking to kill time while her auto was being repaired, she stopped by a local movie theatre.
Desmond died in 1965, and the province gave her a posthumous free pardon in 2010, recognizing the injustice she and other black Nova Scotians suffered.
"You just can't spend it between now and the end of the year", he told her.