$10 Bill in Canada: A Story of Courage and Diversity (2024)

The $10 bill in Canada has a story of courage, dignity, and change. It features Civil Rights icon, Viola Desmond.

As the first Canadian banknote to feature a vertical orientation, it has caught people’s attention and sparked a conversation about the importance of diversity and inclusivity in Canadian society.

Key Takeaways
  • The $10 bill in Canada features Civil Rights icon Viola Desmond, who bravely challenged racial segregation.
  • The distinct design of the banknote includes a colourful Halifax street grid and is vertically oriented, a first for Canadian bills.

Viola Desmond and Her Role in Canadian Civil Rights

Viola Desmond and Her Role in Canadian Civil Rights

Nova Scotia’s Inspiration

Viola Desmond was a prominent figure in Canada’s civil rights movement. As a successful black businesswoman from Halifax’s North End, she refused to give up her seat in the whites-only section at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, in 1946.

This courageous act of defiance occurred nearly a decade before Rosa Parks’ famous bus protest in the US. Desmond’s stand against racial segregation fueled the Canadian civil rights movement and inspired many to fight for racial equality.

Posthumous Apology

In 2010, the Government of Nova Scotia issued a posthumous apology for Viola Desmond’s wrongful arrest and conviction. Her sister, Wanda Robson, received a posthumous pardon for Desmond on her behalf.

This response from the government was an acknowledgement of the historical injustice that Desmond faced and an affirmation of the importance of her actions in the advancement of human rights in Canada.


Today, Viola Desmond’s legacy lives on in various forms. In 2018, she was named a National Historic Person by the Canadian government. Additionally, she has become the first Canadian woman to be featured by herself on the face of a banknote – the $10 bill.

This recognition serves as a reminder of her role in Canadian civil rights history and provides an opportunity to educate people about the importance of fighting for racial equality and justice.

When you use the $10 bill in your everyday transactions, let it remind you of the bravery and resilience of Viola Desmond and her commitment to changing the course of Canadian history regarding racial equality and human rights.

Her actions have cemented her position as a powerful symbol of the civil rights movement in Canada.

Design and Features of the $10 Bill

Design and Features of the $10 Bill

Innovative Vertical Design

In 2018, the Bank of Canada introduced a new vertical $10 bill. This innovative design represents a departure from traditional horizontal banknotes, offering a fresh perspective on Canadian currency.

The vertical orientation is not just unique but also makes the bill easier to handle and more distinguishable from other denominations.

Security Features and Polymer Material

Your $10 bill incorporates several advanced security features that make it difficult for counterfeiters to replicate. It’s made of a durable polymer material that’s resistant to wear and tear, ensuring your banknotes last longer.

Some of the key security features include a transparent window, holographic images, raised ink, and a eurion constellation pattern to prevent unauthorized reproduction.

Furthermore, the bill has tactile features like raised dots to help visually impaired individuals easily identify the denomination.

Art and Symbolism

The $10 bill showcases the rich history and cultural diversity of Canada through various artistic elements.

It’s the first Canadian banknote to feature a non-royal woman and an Indigenous person. On the back, the banknote depicts an eagle feather, symbolizing freedom, power, and the ongoing journey toward truth for Indigenous people.

Additionally, the bill features The Canadian passenger train, an engineering marvel that represents unity and progress. You’ll also find the Canadian flag and a coat of arms on the note.

The laurel leaf in the design signifies justice, as it’s found in the Supreme Court of Canada’s entrance hall, reflecting the importance of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Related Reading: How Many Coins Are In A Roll In Canada?

Impact and Reception

Bank Note of the Year Award

This $10 bill has earned the prestigious Bank Note of the Year Award from the International Bank Note Society, making it a distinguished and well-recognized symbol of Canadian values.

Even though it faced strong competition from countries like Switzerland, the unique vertical design and evocative artwork made this banknote stand out from the rest.

Social and Economic Relevance

As you spend your $10 bill, you’re taking part in a moment of change. From everyday purchases to larger transactions, this banknote serves as more than just legal tender—it’s a symbol of equality and justice that resonates with Canadians from all walks of life.

The bill’s design features elements that reflect this social significance. For instance, a depiction of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba, signifies the ongoing struggle for equality and justice.

Additionally, an image and excerpt from the Library of Parliament honour significant women in Canadian politics, like Agnes Macphail.

Bank of Canada officials, including Governor Stephen S. Poloz and Senior Deputy Governor Carolyn A. Wilkins, have expressed their pride in the impact this note has had on both an economic and personal level.

The $10 bill serves as a potent reminder of the progress society has made while acknowledging that our work is not yet finished.

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Author Bio - Christopher Liew is a CFA Charterholder with 11 years of finance experience and the creator of Wealthawesome.com. Read about how he quit his 6-figure salary career to travel the world here.

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