News / Halifax

'I was rooting for her:' Viola Desmond banknote bringing pride to Nova Scotia

Community leaders like Mayor Savage, Afua Cooper at Dalhousie University, and the president of the Black Cultural Society discuss the honour.

Students from Dartmouth High School pose for a photo in front of a mural of Viola Desmond in this 2014 file photo.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Students from Dartmouth High School pose for a photo in front of a mural of Viola Desmond in this 2014 file photo.

A wave of joy and pride rolled over the province Thursday when it was announced Viola Desmond, the Nova Scotian civil rights icon, would be the first Canadian woman to appear on currency.

Metro spoke to some community leaders for their reaction.

• Afua Cooper, Dalhousie University professor who created the black studies program:

Cooper could hardly put into words her excitement over the news. She said it was a happy boost especially for the black community in Halifax which is dealing with several dark issues right now.

“I was rooting for her leading up to this. My reaction was whoo-hoo!

It's a recognition of her work, of Viola Desmond's work as a civil rights activist. It's a recognition of the wrong done to her so many, many years ago – 70 years ago. It's an acknowledgment that a wrong was done and we are honouring her.

It's just wonderful for Nova Scotia, it's wonderful for the African Nova Scotian community, it's wonderful for all of Canada to have a black woman on the Canadian $10 note. It made my day.”

• Craig Smith, president of the Black Cultural Society

Smith said he was overjoyed an African Nova Scotian would be on the $10 bill. It's a moment to be proud of and celebrate, he said.

“It's definitely a time to stop and just say 'wow, an African Nova Scotian female is going to grace our currency in this country.' I don't think I ever would have thought that in my lifetime it would have happened. I'm just extremely happy to have lived to see it happen.

I grew up in Halifax in the same community Viola Desmond was born, her mom and my grandmother were best friends. Not only does it resonate with me as an African Nova Scotian, but also family-wise as well.

I think she probably would have been humbled... we know as a result of the stance she took she actually left Nova Scotia and Halifax because of all the notoriety that came around the stance she had taken... I hope in this day and age she would have recognized how important she is to the country and to the province.”

• Mayor Mike Savage

Savage said it's great news for everyone, and naming Desmond was the perfect decision.

“I've been waiting for this for quite some time and hoping she'd be the choice.

There are a lot of people who could be the first (Canadian) woman on currency but I think what she stands for is something we can all take pride in.

Sometimes really good things come out of bad events and this is obviously an occasion that doesn't bring pride but the result does. I think it's a wonderful choice and I'm very excited about it.”

Premier Stephen McNeil said "Viola Desmond deserves this recognition as the Canadian hero she is," in a statement.

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