Canada unveils new $10 bill on International Women’s Day

March 8, 2018 – Raja Shergill

Viola Desmond becomes the first black woman and non-royal woman to be featured on a Canadian note.
(Bank of Canada)

On a day where women around the world are celebrated, Canada introduced a new $10 bill honouring African-Canadian civil rights activist, Viola Desmond, for refusing to accept the realities of race and gender.

The History

Finance minister Bill Morneau looked back at the time Viola stood her ground and in the process made Canadian history by starting the conversation to ending gender and race issues in the country.

“She’s best remembered for that night in 1946 when she wouldn’t move from her seat in the movie theatre that she had every right to occupy. And even after being arrested and convicted, Viola wouldn’t let it go, and we’re so glad she didn’t.” – Bill Morneau, Finance Minister.

Desmond was dragged out of her seat and put in jail for sitting in the “whites only” section at the movie theatre. At the time, black people were only allowed to sit on the balcony of the theatre.

The Unveiling

Morneau showed a video of Desmond’s sister, Wanda Robson, when she first learned that her sister will be on the new currency.

“It’s beautiful,” an emotional Robson said, “It’s so lifelike, as if she’s in this room.”

At the ceremony on Thursday in Halifax, Robson removed a black tarp to unveil the brand new note featuring an image of her sister, who is the first black woman, and non-royal woman to be displayed on money.

Unlike most bills, the new notes design is shaped vertically rather than horizontal, something Robson was elated about.

“This is amazing, unique, and our family will go down in history”  – Wanda Robson, Viola Desmond’s sister

The reverse side of the bill will be an image of Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum of Human Rights as well as part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is expected to be in circulation by the end of the year.

Much of Desmond’s efforts weren’t talked about until recently, however now her name appears on the Halifax harbour ferry, a Canada post stamp, and there are plans to have streets named after her in Halifax and Montreal.

“With this new $10 bill, Canadians will be reminded how Viola stood up for her rights. One woman’s actions can really make a difference” – Wanda Robson, Desmond’s sister

Reverse side of the new bill.
(Bank of Canada)