Speaking at a ceremony in Halifax, Desmond's sister Wanda Robson told the crowd she was delighted to see her sister on Canadian currency.
The central bank also added a so-called Easter egg to its website last spring when it unveiled the design for its $10 bank note to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
"We have symbols in this country that talk to us about what we're all about as a nation".
"The launch of the bill sends people of African descent the message that Canada is finally accepting us", said executive director of the Black Cultural, Russell Grosse.
In 1954, Nova Scotia ended segregation, a move partially driven by Desmond's case. "It's lifelike. It's as if she is in this room with this new $10 bill". Her name now graces a Halifax Transit harbour ferry, a Canada Post stamp, and there are plans for streets named in her honour in Montreal and Halifax and a park in Toronto.
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After being forced to travel to Montreal, Atlantic City and NY for training, she returned to Halifax and opened a beauty school aimed at offering black people a local option for training.
"I'm numb with joy", Robson said at the time of her sister's pardon.
Desmond's story started with a business trip 71 years ago.
It was divided along racial lines: blacks, the audience had to sit on the balcony, while the entire first floor set aside for whites. "It's handsome", she told an audience in Halifax. This happened nine years before Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Desmond was dragged out of the theatre and arrested, ultimately spending 12 hours in jail.
"Viola Desmond carried out a singular act of courage", Saney said. Nova Scotia issued a posthumous pardon to her in 2009, decades after her protest and 1965 death. "There was no movement behind her, she was ahead of the times".
"I say thank you, thank you, thank you", Robson continued.