New collector coin honours civil rights icon

Viola Desmond’s sister, Ms. Wanda Robson was given an early striing of the Royal Canadian Mint silver collector coin honouring her sister, Canadian civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond (Halifax, NS, January 24, 2019) (CNW Group/Royal Canadian Mint)

RADIO CANADA INTERNATIONAL | Marc Montgomery |

In a small incident that has since become legendary, North America’s first fight for black rights will be honoured once again by the Royal Canadian Mint.

In 1946, years before the Rosa Parks incident in the U.S., Canadian businesswoman Viola Desmond, refused to give up her seat in a “whites only” section of a movie theatre in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Arrested and charged with a minor offence, she lost the court case, but the incident over time eventually was a spark that led to abolition of segregation laws in Canada.

Since honoured with a postage stamp, and a $10 banknote, as part of Black History Month, the Royal Canadian Mint has announced she will be commemorated as well on a new collectible coin.

The pure silver coin will be released in time for the 105th anniversary of Desmond’s birth on July 6.

The new 99.99% silver coin. The dates of her birth and death are separated by a heart which mimics the pendant she wore in the photo used for the coin and banknote image (Royal Canadian Mint)

In a statement announcing the coin,  Jennifer Camelon, Interim President and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint said “While diversity and respect for civil rights are widely hailed as defining Canadian values, it is important for us to remember that achieving equality in Canada required courageous acts such as Viola Desmond’s defiance of unfair local segregation customs in 1946”.

Some 8,000 of the 99.99% silver coins will be struck with a $10 face value and a sale price of C$149.95. They will be available in late June.

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