There is a story behind Canada’s latest banknote that goes past its stunning vertical design.
The $10 bill, released this week, does not feature a politician or royalty, but celebrates an extraordinary Canadian.
Viola Desmond is the first Canadian woman to appear alone on a Canadian banknote.
Viola Desmond has a story, and a story that is now being told.
You will hear about how Desmond challenged racial segregation at a Nova Scotia movie theatre in 1946, by refusing a balcony seat and sitting in the main floor “whites-only” section. You will hear about how she was charged with tax evasion for the one cent difference between main floor and balcony seating.
You will hear about her courageous stand against injustice and how she inspired a movement for equality and social injustice in my country.
You will hear less about Desmond’s entrepreneurial spirit, but need to be reminded of how this woman worked to further opportunity for women in Canada.
Being of African descent, Desmond was not allowed to train to become a beautician in Halifax. She travelled to Montreal and New York for her own training, opened her own salon, then later established a school of beauty culture so that black women did not have to travel as far to become trained. Each year women, who had all been refused admission to whites-only training programs, were trained in hair technique and business skills so they could return to their own communities and provide jobs for other black women.
Viola Desmond: a remarkable woman; a remarkable story.
This is a story we will be reminded of each time a $10 bill passes through our hands.
The bill is the first of the polymer banknotes that features vertical orientation. It is rumored the $5 note, which will be released in the next couple of years, will feature Canada’s first prime minister John A. MacDonald. We can only hope this will not be the case as the bar has been set with the release of the Desmond bill and there is too much controversy surrounding MacDonald’s racist, perhaps white-supremacist, views.
We cannot go back there.
Surely, given our rich, deep history, we can find more inspiring Canadians who have a story worth hearing about?
The rear view of the new $10 bill displays the image of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg . Of course, I’m Manitoba proud, but urge you to visit the destination at some point in your life. The architecture of the building itself is amazing, and the exhibits inside remind of us the wrongs society has lived through. The museum inspires change, and acceptance. There are so many more stories worth learning about.