Nova Scotia

Mint's first Black History Month coin celebrates Viola Desmond

In 1946, Viola Desmond refused to give up her seat in a segregated section of a New Glasgow, N.S., movie theatre.

The civil right activist, who died in 1965, is also featured on the $10 bill

Wanda Robson with the Royal Canadian Mint silver collector coin honouring her sister, Canadian civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond. (CNW Group/Royal Canadian Mint)

The Royal Canadian Mint is paying tribute to a civil rights pioneer from Nova Scotia with its first Black History Month coin.

The silver collector coin pays tribute to Viola Desmond, who in 1946 was arrested and put on trial for refusing to sit in the segregated section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, N.S.

"It became the catalyst for equal rights in Canada," the mint noted in a news release.

It said Desmond's "exceptional legacy" is now preserved on a 99.99 per cent pure silver coin. The face value of the coin is $20.

The Royal Canadian Mint is paying tribute to Viola Desmond with its first Black History Month coin. (The Royal Canadian Mint)

The coin — which will retail for $149.95 — will be issued in time for what would have been Desmond's 105th birthday, on July 6. Desmond died in 1965.

Desmond's sister, Wanda Robson, was given a coin in advance.

"The engraved details in Viola's portrait are beautiful, it is so striking. That's Viola," Robson is quoted as saying in the mint's news release.

Desmond also graces Canada's new $10 bill, which went into circulation late last year. One of Halifax's harbour ferries is named after the iconic activist, as well.


  • A previous version of this story said the coin would retail for $20. In fact, the coin will retail for $149.95 and has a face value of $20. This version has been corrected.
    Feb 07, 2019 4:16 PM AT