Desmond, an icon of the human rights and freedoms movement in Canada, was selected from a short list of five iconic Canadian women by Minister Morneau, in accordance with the Bank of Canada Act. A successful Nova Scotia businesswoman, 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.
“Today is about recognizing the incalculable contribution that all women have had and continue to have in shaping Canada’s story. Viola Desmond’s own story reminds all of us that big change can start with moments of dignity and bravery,” said Minister Morneau. “She represents courage, strength and determination—qualities we should all aspire to every day.”
Joining Governor Poloz and Ministers Morneau and Hajdu at the Canadian Museum of History for the announcement was one of Viola Desmond’s sisters, Wanda Robson.
“It’s a big day to have a woman on a bank note, but it’s an especially big day to have your big sister on a bank note. Our family is extremely proud and honoured,” said Robson, who was instrumental in making Desmond’s story widely known.
The selection of Viola 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.
“Canadians were extremely engaged, which made our consultation process very successful,” said Governor Poloz. “Through this exciting process, with every mouse click or turn of a book’s page, with every kitchen table discussion or classroom debate, Canadians learned more about the iconic women who built Canada.”
Minister Hajdu said, “Many extraordinary women could have been on this next bank note, and the search and decision-making process were extremely thorough. The choice of Viola Desmond reminds us that Canada is a diverse country where everyone deserves equality and respect.”