Viola Desmond $10 bill wins international banknote of the year design award

A Canadian $10 bill featuring Nova Scotia civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond has been named the best in the world.

The International Bank Note Society has announced the Desmond bill won the coveted Bank Note of the Year Award for 2018, beating out top designs from places like Switzerland, Norway, Russia and the Solomon Islands.

In March 2018, the federal government unveiled the vertical banknote design featuring Desmond’s portrait and a map of her north-end Halifax neighbourhood. The bill went into circulation in November.

Desmond played a seminal role in Canada’s civil rights movement when, on Nov. 8, 1946, she went to see a movie at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, N.S., while her car was getting fixed.

Desmond, 32, was dragged out of the theatre by police and jailed for defiantly sitting in the “whites only” section of the film house. At the time, black people could only sit in the balcony.

Her ensuing legal fight against that injustice helped end segregation in Nova Scotia. In 2010, she was posthumously awarded an apology and a pardon.

Desmond is often described as Canada’s Rosa Parks, even though Desmond’s act of defiance happened nine years before Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus.

Desmond’s trailblazing efforts received little attention until recent years, but her legacy is being increasingly recognized. Her name now graces a Halifax Transit harbour ferry, a Canada Post stamp, a commemorative coin, a children’s book, and streets named in her honour.

The $10 bill also features an image of Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum of Human Rights, as well as part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to the International Bank Note Society, there were 150 new banknotes released in 2018 but only 10 per cent of those were considered to be of sufficiently new design to be nominated

The Bank of Canada and the Canadian Bank Note Company designed the award-winning bill. Canadian master engraver Jorge Peral engraved Desmond’s portrait. 

The society said in a news release the Desmond bill was the front-runner from the beginning.

It’s not the first time Canada has won. In 2004, Canada won the inaugural Bank Note of the Year Award, placed second three years in a row (2011, 2012 and 2013) and finished in third place last year.

Peral was also behind the 2015 design for New Zealand’s $5 note also won world’s best that year.

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