Canada Unveiled Its $10 Bill That Will Feature Black Female Civil Rights Activist Viola Desmond

March 12, 2018  |  

Viola Desmond on Canadian $10 bill to be in circulation at the end of 2018

We told you back in 2016 that Canada would feature Viola Desmond, a black female civil rights activist, on its $10 bill. Well, the bill has finally gotten a design, and it will be in rotation at the end of this year.

The Canadian civil rights activist was honored on International Women’s Day on Thursday with an unveiling of her portrait on the $10 Canadian bill. Desmond passed away in 1965, so her sister Wanda Robson, who has been working diligently to keep her legacy alive, was there in her stead.

“I said, ‘it’s the $10 bill.’ She’s on the $10 bill…Well, I was speechless. My family would have liked that. For once in my life, I was speechless,” Robson jokingly stated.

According to CTV News, Desmond was chosen out of 26,000 nominations. And having Desmond on the bill is historic in three ways – she will be the first black woman to be on any regularly circulating Canadian banknote; she is the first non-royal woman to be on currency; and she will be the first person to be featured on a bill with a vertical design. The Bank of Canada said that the vertical orientation allows Desmond’s face to be featured more prominently.

And as one design firm put it, “You tend to hold a wallet or purse vertically when searching for notes. The majority of people hand over notes vertically when making purchases,” Designboom author Andy Butler wrote in 2010. “All machines accept notes vertically. Therefore a vertical note makes more sense.”

As an American, I learned nothing about Desmond’s contributions to the civil rights movement growing up, but the Canadian woman caused such a radical stir that she was dubbed the “Rosa Parks of Canada.”

However, nine years before Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, Desmond refused to get up from her seat in the “whites-only” section of a movie theater in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1946. She was arrested and convicted for this.

At the unveiling ceremony, Federal Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, spoke about how important it is for everyone to stand up for what they believe in.

“It shows that standing up for what we believe, whether it’s on the step of Parliament Hill or in a movie theater in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia makes our country and our world a better place for future generations,” said Morneau.

The Governor of the Bank of Canada echoed Morneau’s sentiments, taking it further by saying that the country’s currency should reflect the stories of its people.

“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,” Poloz said in a statement. “I’m immensely proud of all the innovation that went into this note.”

I’ve never been to Canada, at least not yet. But I will be sure to make a trip by the time the country’s $10 banknote starts circulating because Viola Desmond’s face will be on it. Will you be making a trip to our northern neighbor because of this news?

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