Viola Desmond's trailblazing act of defiance -- overlooked for decades by most Canadians -- was honoured Thursday in a Halifax ceremony that cemented her new status as a civil rights icon.
A new $10 bill featuring Desmond was unveiled by Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz.
The purple polymer bill -- the first vertically oriented bank note issued in Canada -- includes a portrait of Desmond and a historic map of north end Halifax on one side and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg on the other.
"It was long past time for a bank note to feature an iconic Canadian woman," Poloz told the large crowd gathered at the Halifax Central Library on International Women's Day despite a blustery snowstorm and flickering power. "That's been a goal of mine since I became governor."
Morneau said the deck was "doubly stacked" against Desmond because of her gender and the colour of her skin. He said she stood up for what she believed in and helped make the country a better place.
The bill, which also features an eagle feather and an excerpt from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, was met by a standing ovation.
Desmond's story started with a business trip 71 years ago. Desmond, a beautician and entrepreneur from north end Halifax who sold her own line of cosmetics, was headed to Sydney, N.S., when her car broke down. Stuck in New Glasgow overnight, she decided to watch a movie at the Roseland Theatre.
The segregated theatre relegated black patrons to the balcony, while floor seating was reserved for whites. Desmond, who was short-sighted and could not see properly from the back, sat in the floor section and refused to leave.
She was dragged out of the theatre by police, arrested, thrown in jail for 12 hours and fined. It would take 63 years for Nova Scotia to issue Desmond, who died in 1965, a posthumous apology and pardon.
The new bill is expected to enter circulation at the end of the year.