Celebrating Viola Desmond on the new $10 bill


Allard School of Law students Mara Selanders and Abigail Ywaya .


It was a historic day for Canada as the new $10 bill featuring Canadian civil rights icon Viola Desmond officially went into circulation on Monday, November 19th. The Allard School of Law had the honour of co-hosting a launch event with the Bank of Canada at Allard Hall to celebrate this significant milestone.
 
Ms. Desmond was a successful businesswoman who was jailed, convicted and fined for defiantly refusing to leave a whites-only area of a movie theatre in Nova Scotia in 1946. Her experience with discrimination inspired the determined pursuit to achieve social and legal equality for members of the African Canadian community as well as for other racialized minorities in Canada.
 
She is the first Canadian woman to be featured on a regularly circulating banknote.
 
The commemorative event at Allard Hall included thoughtful and inspiring comments from a few incredible speakers, including Madam Justice Nitya Iyer who said that “the bill is a call to action, not self-congratulatory, but an acknowledgement that we need to do better.” 
 
Law students Abigail Ywaya and Mara Selanders from the Black Law Students Association at the Allard School of Law also spoke at the event. 
 
“Viola Desmond’s recognition represents the recognition that black women existed and continue to be part of the fabric of Canadian civil society. It means that my children will be able to look at themselves and not simply see “different” but see belonging,” said Abigail. 
 
Mara said that Viola’s story served as a “reminder that as women, and as people of colour, as Afro-Canadians, as members of various diasporas in this nation, we have to fight to be visible.”
 
The speaking program ended with award winning poet, writer and scholar Julian Okot Bitek sharing her incredibly moving poem titled Gauntlet. The event also served as an opportunity for members of the public to exchange their old $10 bills for the new one. Over a 100 bills were exchanged that day.