Yet we have a far from unblemished record when it comes to race and ethnic relations in our own country, the most egregious examples being the Chinese head tax and the internment and dispossession of the Japanese and the Italians during the second world war. While most people know of those shameful episodes, far fewer know about the discrimination black people have faced here. That is why the decision to put Viola Desmond on the next $10 bill is such cause for celebration.
As the activist in the above video states, the selection of Desmond will not end the racism that still exists (a sentiment echoed by Yusra Khogali, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto), but it makes it easier to address.
And I would add two points: it should also be a point of real pride for the people of colour in our country, as well as a humbling and eye-opening development for the rest of us, including me, who did not know her story, nor the kind of segregation people experienced here.
Perhaps we are finally moving toward a time when we recognize people by the integrity, resilience and fortitude they possess, not the colour of their skin or the religion or ethnic group they belong to.
'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
UPDATE: This Star editorial is a fitting complement to Viola Desmond:
Putting a Canadian woman on a bill is long overdue. The choice of this particular woman is an especially powerful symbol of acknowledgment of past wrongs and tribute to someone who, at great risk to herself, fought against them. It should also be read as a promise from the state that it will take seriously and work alongside those who continue to resist in the spirit of Viola Desmond’s unfinished project.