First non-royal woman featured alone on Canadian bill
By Roshni Riar, Staff Writer
On November 19, the first $10 vertical Canadian banknote will go into circulation.
The new bill features a portrait of Viola Desmond, a Nova Scotian civil rights icon, activist, and businesswoman. Minister of Finance Bill Morneau selected Desmond from a short list of Canadian women nominated by the public.
The release of the banknote marks many firsts in Canadian history. It’s the first time that a Canadian-born woman will be featured alone on regularly circulating Canadian currency, the first time that a black person will be featured, and the first vertical bill in Canadian currency.
Viola Desmond gained national attention and infamy in 1946 after she visited a movie theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia and sat in the “whites only” section. She refused to move to the balcony where only people of colour were permitted to sit. Forcibly removed from the theatre, Desmond was jailed, fined, and convicted of tax evasion for failing to pay the one-cent difference in cost between the “white” movie seat she occupied and the “black” seat she had paid for. Her court case was the first time in Canadian history that racial segregation was brought to light and challenged. Desmond’s conviction was never overturned but in 2010, the province of Nova Scotia issued Desmond an official posthumous pardon.
In a Bank of Canada press release, Morneau said, “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 […] to fight for what they believe, take their place and create a better future for themselves and all Canadians.”
The reverse side of the new $10 banknote will feature an image of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which is the first museum in the world that focuses entirely on the history, present, and future of human rights. The bill will feature Canadian symbols such as the Coat of Arms, the Canadian flag, and maple leaves. A portion of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will also be printed on the bill, as well as an eagle feather to represent the ongoing journey towards recognizing Indigenous rights and freedoms.
The release of the new $10 banknote means that other Canadian banknotes are also due to be redesigned. John A. MacDonald will continue to be honoured on a higher value banknote in the future, but there is currently no confirmation of a timeline or date. The next banknote to be redesigned will be the $5 Canadian bill, the selection process of which will mirror that of the $10 bill. It will start with a call to the public for nominations, similarly looking to feature an iconic and impactful Canadian. The Bank of Canada website says the redesign process for the $5 banknote will follow “a few years after” the release of the new $10 bill.