This unique coin and banknote set serves as a tribute to a Canadian civil rights pioneer, Viola Desmond (1914-1965). The set includes a $20 fine silver coin together with one of the first Viola Desmond design Bank of Canada $10 notes introduced in late 2018. Mintage is limited to 8,000. GST/HST exempt.
Viola Desmond sparked a movement by standing firm in the face of injustice. On November 8, 1946, she was arrested after she refused to sit in a segregated section of a movie theatre. Her act of courage, and the legal challenge that ensued, became a rallying point for equal rights in Canada. This coin honours Viola Desmond and serves as a lasting reminder that one person can inspire change. Viola Desmond was a successful entrepreneur and a mentor. At a time when beauty schools and shops were often segregated, Desmond opened Vi’s Studio of Beauty Culture in 1937, followed by the Desmond School of Beauty Culture. Her next business venture was the launch of Vi’s Beauty Products (branded SEPIA), a successful line of skin and hair care products that bore her name and likeness, similar to the coin’s reverse.
Desmond was charged with tax evasion. Since segregation wasn’t legally enforced, Desmond was charged, convicted and fined for failure to pay the one-cent difference on the amusement tax on the pricier lower-level seat. In fact, Desmond had attempted to exchange her balcony-level ticket and pay the difference, but she was denied based on the colour of her skin.
Her conviction galvanized a community. Attempts to overturn Desmond’s conviction were unsuccessful, but the injustice paved the way for new legislation in the 1950s and 1960s that prohibited racial discrimination in Nova Scotia. Finally, on April 15, 2010, Desmond was posthumously granted a pardon, along with an apology and a public declaration that her case had been a miscarriage of justice.