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Learn about the first woman on Canadian currency

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Viola Desmond will be featured on a new $10 Canadian bank note, which is expected in late 2018. This will mark the first time that a portrait of a Canadian woman will be featured on a regularly circulating Bank of Canada (BoC) note.

Why Desmond? As an icon of the human rights and freedoms movement in Canada, Desmond was selected from a short list of five iconic Canadian women by Finance Minister Bill Morneau, in accordance with the Bank of Canada Act.

Desmond was a successful Nova Scotia businesswoman, says the BoC, and she is known for defiantly refusing to leave a whites-only area of a movie theatre in 1946. She was subsequently jailed, convicted and fined. Her court case was the first known legal challenge against racial segregation brought forth by a Black woman in Canada.

Choosing to feature a woman on a Canadian bank note is about “recognizing the incalculable contribution that all women have had and continue to have in shaping Canada’s story,” says Morneau. “Viola Desmond’s own story reminds all of us that big change can start with moments of dignity and bravery. She represents courage, strength and determination—qualities we should all aspire to every day.”

The selection of Desmond is the final step in the #bankNOTEable campaign to choose an iconic Canadian woman to appear on this new bank note. Last spring, an open call for nominations launched by the Bank yielded more than 26,300 submissions from across Canada, resulting in 461 eligible candidates. An independent Advisory Council composed of eminent Canadian academic, sport, cultural and thought leaders narrowed down the list to five candidates for consideration by the Minister of Finance.

Read more about Viola Desmond and watch her Heritage Minute video below.

What’s next?

To continue to celebrate more iconic Canadians, the next $5 note will also feature a new notable Canadian. The BoC will launch another consultation process to seek input from Canadians on the design of that $5 note.

Since Viola Desmond will be featured on the $10 note and another iconic Canadian will be featured on the future $5 note, Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and our first francophone Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, will be honoured on our higher-value bank notes. Those changes will take place when the higher-value notes are redesigned for the next series.

These changes mean that former prime ministers William Lyon Mackenzie King and Sir Robert Borden will no longer be portrayed on bank notes, but the $20 denomination will continue to feature the reigning monarch.

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