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Viola Desmond graces new $10 bill


Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Bank of Canada Governor Stephen S. Poloz today unveiled the new $10 bank note featuring Viola Desmond during a ceremony at the Halifax Central Library. Once issued into circulation in late 2018, it will mark the first time that an iconic Canadian woman is portrayed on a regularly circulating Bank of Canada note.

Viola Desmond was selected for the new $10 bank note by Morneau following an open call to Canadians to nominate an iconic Canadian woman for the next redesigned bank note. A successful black Nova Scotian businesswoman, Viola Desmond defiantly refused to leave a whites-only area of a movie theatre in 1946 and was subsequently jailed, convicted and fined. Her court case is one of the first known legal challenges against racial segregation brought forth by a Black woman in Canada.

This new $10 note is the first vertically oriented bank note issued in Canada. This will allow for a more prominent image of Viola Desmond and differentiates this new $10 note from the current polymer notes.

“Two years ago today—on International Women’s Day—Prime Minister Trudeau and I announced that the time had come for a Canadian woman to be represented on Canada’s bank notes. Since then, thanks in large part through her sister Wanda, more and more Canadians have come to know Viola Desmond’s remarkable personal story of courage and dignity. Her story serves as inspiration to all Canadians and acts as a powerful reminder of how one person’s actions can help trigger change across generations,” said Morneau, in a news release. “As we strive for equality across our economy and in every facet of our country, we hope this constant reminder of Viola’s story will help inspire a new generation of women, men, girls and boys to fight for what they believe, take their place and create a better future for themselves and all Canadians.”

The back of the $10 bank note features images and symbols that represent Canada’s ongoing pursuit of rights and freedoms. It features the Canadian Museum for Human Rights—the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. Also depicted on the note are an eagle feather—representing the ongoing journey toward recognizing rights and freedoms for Indigenous Peoples in Canada—and an excerpt from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Enhanced security features have been added to help keep these bank notes safe from counterfeiting, yet easy to use. The new $10 will be printed on polymer, which was introduced to Canadian bank notes in 2011. Polymer bank notes last longer than paper bank notes. This vertical bank note is the same size, has the same functionality as existing Canadian bank notes and should not change how people handle cash.

“Our bank notes are designed not only to be a secure and durable means of payment, but also to be works of art that tell the stories of Canada. This new $10 fits that bill,” said Poloz. “I’m immensely proud of all the innovation that went into this note—from the public consultation process that encouraged a national conversation on the important contributions of women in Canadian history, to the note’s beautiful vertical design, to its cutting-edge security features. Canadians can use this note with both confidence and pride.”

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