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  • Desmond is the first female Canadian to be featured prominently on a banknote. 

    Desmond is the first female Canadian to be featured prominently on a banknote.  | Photo: International Banknote Society

Published 2 May 2019

Viola Desmond etched her name into history, on Nov. 8, 1946, when she was forcibly removed from a cinema and jailed for sitting in the "whites only" section of the theatre.

Canada’s $10 note, featuring black civil rights activist Viola Desmond, has been named the Bank Note of the Year Award for 2018 by the International Bank Note Society.

RELATED: 
Black Civil Rights Activist Viola Desmond's Portrait Finally Graces Canadian Bill

The vertical design bears Desmond’s likeness, a map of her north-end Halifax neighborhood, Winnipeg's Canadian Museum of Human Rights and part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Desmond etched her name into history, on Nov. 8, 1946, when she was forcibly removed from a cinema, by police, and jailed for sitting in the "whites only" section of the theatre.

Black people were, at the time, only allowed to sit in the balconies. Following the incident, Desmond’s prolonged legal battle helped to bring about the end of segregation in Nova Scotia.

"Her court case was an inspiration for the pursuit of racial equality across Canada," the Bank of Canada stated.

Desmond - who the first female Canadian to be featured prominently on a banknote - is often described as Canada's Rosa Parks, though the Canadian’s defiant act took place nine years before Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus.

Women were previously featured on the back of a Canadian $50 note in 2004.

The civil right activist's name can be found on a Halifax Transit harbour ferry, a Canada Post stamp, a commemorative coin, a children's book, and streets.

Desmond was posthumously awarded an apology and a free pardon in 2010.

The note’s design topped others from Switzerland, Norway, Russia and the Solomon Islands. Only 10 percent of the 150 new banknotes released in 2018 were considered to be of “sufficiently new design” to be nominated for the accolade, according to the International Bank Note Society.

Desmond’s award-winning currency was the collaborative efforts of the Bank of Canada, the Canadian Bank Note Company and Canadian master engraver Jorge Peral and its release was announced on November 19, 2018.

In 2004, Canada won the inaugural Bank Note of the Year Award and has also placed second three years in a row (2011, 2012 and 2013) and finished in third place last year.

Second placed Switzerland won for a 10 franc note in 2017 and a 50 franc note in 2016.

International Bank Note Society is a non-profit education organization that works to advance the study of worldwide banknotes and paper currencies.

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