Wanda Robson’s big sister Viola Desmond, the civil rights pioneer and businesswoman, is the new face of the $10 bill. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canada’s Viola Desmond $10 bill named best banknote in the world

Bill marks growing recognition of first black person to appear on regularly circulating Canadian banknote

Canada’s new $10 bill featuring Nova Scotia human rights icon Viola Desmond has been named banknote of the year.

The bill, which also features a map of Halifax’s historic north end as well as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, was honoured in a vote by the International Bank Note Society.

The society says in a news release that the Desmond bill was a favourite of its voting membership right from the start.

Thepurple polymer bill was the first vertically oriented banknote issued in Canada.

Desmond is the first black person — and the first non-royal woman — on a regularly circulating Canadian banknote.

The bill marks a growing recognition of Desmond’s refusal to leave the whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre on Nov. 8, 1946 — nearly a decade before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Alabama — and the seminal role it played in Canada’s civil rights movement.

Desmond, a beautician and entrepreneur from north end Halifax who sold her own line of cosmetics, was headed to Sydney, N.S., when her car broke down. Stuck in New Glasgow overnight, she decided to watch a movie at the Roseland Theatre.

WATCH: New $10 bill featuring Viola Desmond to go into circulation

The segregated theatre relegated black patrons to the balcony, while floor seating was reserved for whites. Desmond, who was shortsighted and could not see properly from the back, sat in the floor section and refused to leave.

She was dragged out of the theatre by police, arrested, thrown in jail for 12 hours and fined.

It would take 63 years for Nova Scotia to issue Desmond, who died in 1965, a posthumous apology and pardon.

Desmond’s story went largely untold for a half-century, but in recent years she has been featured on a stamp, and her name graces a Halifax harbour ferry. A Toronto park and streets in Montreal and New Glasgow bear her name, and she was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2017.

The bank note society also honoured notes from Switzerland, Norway, Russia and Solomon Islands.

The society says 150 new banknotes were released in 2018, but only 10 per cent of them featured sufficiently new designs to be nominated.

The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Meet Arthur Heart, Oak Bay Avenue’s resident stickman

Contest winner dubs stickman Art Heart

Victoria council keeps its catered lunches at more than $10,000 per year

Two councillors tried to eliminate the expense, with widespread rejection

All Carlton Cards stores closing in the coming weeks

Schurman Retail Group stores across North America will close, including 79 in Canada

UPDATED: 12 Wet’suwet’en supporters arrested by VicPD

Protesters rallied against Coastal GasLink pipeline

Four things ‘not’ to do if you run into Prince Harry and Meghan in B.C.

Here is a list of some things you definitely should NOT do, according to the BBC

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. RCMP spent roughly $750K on massive manhunt for Port Alberni men

Manitoba RCMP helped with 17-day search through the province’s northern terrain

Island Bakery in Cobble Hill to close

Cobble Hill store in business since 1982

Man killed by police in Lytton called 911, asking to be shot: RCMP

Howard Schantz, also known as Barry Schantz was killed following a standoff at his Lytton home

Canadian public health agencies ramping up preparations in response to new virus

Health officials have said there are no confirmed cases of the emerging coronavirus in Canada

‘Naughty boy’: Monty Python star Terry Jones dies at 77

The comedian has been suffering from a rare form of dementia

Most Read