Canada’s upcoming $10 bank note, which depicts social justice defender Viola Desmond, tells a story of human rights.
The new note, which will be issued in late 2018, is the first in Canada to have a vertical design and features images and symbols that represent the country’s ongoing pursuit of rights and freedoms.
Viola Desmond’s fight for justice
At the heart of the note is portrait subject Viola Desmond, the first Canadian woman to be featured on a regularly circulating bank note. Desmond, a successful Black businesswoman, was jailed, convicted and fined for defiantly refusing to leave a whites-only area of a movie theatre in 1946. Her court case is one of the first known legal challenges against racial segregation brought forth by a Black woman in Canada. Desmond is also the first portrait subject to be nominated by Canadians, following an open call in 2016 to identify an iconic Canadian woman to appear on the next redesigned bank note. She was ultimately selected by Finance Minister Bill Morneau for her courageous stand for equality and justice.
Next to Desmond’s portrait is an artistic rendering of a map of the historic North End of Halifax, the community where she lived and owned and operated her beauty school and salon. The community served as a source of invaluable support as Desmond challenged her criminal conviction.
A human rights story, from past to present
The back of the upcoming bank note carries Desmond’s story into the present with an image of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights—the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. The museum, which opened in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 2014, houses a permanent exhibit dedicated to Viola Desmond’s story.
The bank note also features the Museum’s iconic ramps that appear to criss-cross each other, symbolizing the history of human rights in Canada and in the world—a history full of setbacks and contradictions, but characterized nonetheless by strength and hope.
Also appearing on the back of the note is an eagle feather to illustrate the ongoing journey toward recognizing rights and freedoms for Indigenous Peoples in Canada. For many First Nations peoples in Canada, the eagle is believed to fly higher and see further than any other bird, and an eagle feather symbolizes ideals such as truth, power and freedom. The colour-shifting feather is one of several enhanced security features included on this new note.
Entrenching our rights and freedoms
As with the previous series of polymer bank notes, the new $10 note features a large transparent window as a key security feature. The window showcases a metallic rendering of the vaulted dome ceiling of the Library of Parliament in Ottawa. Capped by arched windows that flood the room with natural light, the Library of Parliament is a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture and acts as a storehouse of knowledge to help shape Canada’s laws.
Also featured on the note is an excerpt from Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a reminder of the laws that enshrine human rights in Canada:
Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination …
Completing the new note’s human rights and social justice theme is a laurel leaf pattern, an ancient symbol of justice, found in the bottom right corner on the back of the note. The laurel leaf appears in the grand entrance hall of the Supreme Court of Canada, the nation’s final court of appeal.
Visit bankofcanada.ca to learn more about the design and security features of Canada’s currency and follow the Bank on Twitter (@bankofcanada) for the latest news about Canadian bank notes.
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