Q&A About Canada’s New $10 Bill Featuring Viola Desmond

A picture of the new Canadian $10 bill featuring Canadian hero Viola Desmond.Teaching Kids News asked the communications representative at the Bank of Canada a few questions about the new Viola Desmond $10 bill, its security features and about future bank notes.

Their answers include some fascinating information about the country’s bank-note process (the questions and answers have been edited for clarity).

Q: How often does the Bank of Canada issue bank notes?

A: In the past, the Bank has issued a new series of bank notes, with new security features and visual designs, every 15 years or so. To stay ahead of counterfeiting threats and to keep pace with advances in technology, the Bank has said that it expects to issue new series more frequently.

The Bank of Canada is also moving away from issuing series (all five denominations) within a short time frame.  Starting with the $10 featuring Viola Desmond, the Bank will be issuing a new note every few years. This new $10 will begin circulating in late 2018.  It will be followed by the $5 note a few years later.  And the next note a few years after that.

As such, each new bank note issued by the Bank of Canada will be equipped with the latest available security features.

Q: Can you provide a list of the security features and “fun” features?

A: The new bank note has bold security features that are easy to check and difficult to counterfeit, ensuring that Canadians can use it with confidence. It has some enhanced security features compared with the current polymer notes.  You can find images and a description of the new bank note’s security features on the Bank of Canada website:

Feel the smooth, unique texture of the note. It is made from a single piece of polymer with some transparent areas.

Raised Ink
Feel the raised ink on the portrait, the word “Canada” and the large number at the bottom.

Colour-shifting Eagle Feather
Look at the pattern in the eagle feather. Tilt the note to see the pattern move up and down, and the colour shift from gold to green.

3-D Maple Leaf
Look at the large maple leaf that appears to be raised. Feel it to confirm that the surface is actually flat.

Transparent Maple Leaf
Look at the maple leaf. It is clear and feels slightly raised on the front of the note.

Large Transparent Window
Look at the detailed metallic images and symbols in and around the large transparent window.

Metallic Symbols and Images
Look at the detailed metallic images and symbols in the large window. Tilt the note to see sharp colour changes in the metallic elements. Flip the note to see the library ceiling and maple leaves repeated in the same colours and detail on the other side.

Q: Is this the first time that an African-Canadian woman has been featured on Canadian money? Other than the Queen, have their been any other women on Canadian money?

A: It is the first regularly circulating bank note issued by the Bank of Canada to feature a Canadian woman as the portrait subject.

A commemorative note was issued on 1 June 2017 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. The Canada 150 note, which was issued in a limited quantity to mark this historical milestone, featured Agnes Macphail, a champion of equality and human rights who, in 1921, became the first woman elected to the House of Commons in Canada.  It also featured portraits of three other parliamentarians, Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir George-Étienne Cartier and Senator James Gladstone (Akay-na-muka).

The $10 featuring Viola Desmond is a regularly circulating $10 note and, as such, it will be produced by the Bank of Canada for years to come.  It will be the first bank note featuring a woman who is not a parliamentarian or a member of the Royal Family.

Q: Why did you decide to go vertical this time? Will the other bills go vertical?

A: This $10 is the first vertically oriented note issued by the Bank of Canada. The Bank chose this design because it differentiates this note from the current polymer notes, and allows for a more prominent image of Viola Desmond, which is fitting for the first portrait subject nominated by Canadians.

The change in orientation is a continuation of the Bank of Canada’s innovative approach to bank note design. It is planned that the next $5, $20, $50 and $100 notes will also have vertical designs.

Q: Who decides who gets to be on a bank note?

A; It is the Minister of Finance who makes the final choice since he decides on “the form and material” of any new bank note, in accordance with the Bank of Canada Act.

Viola Desmond was chosen as the portrait subject following a comprehensive national public consultation that invited Canadians to nominate women they felt deserved the recognition of appearing on a bank note.

The open call for nominations launched by the Bank yielded more than 26,300 submissions from across Canada, resulting in 461 eligible candidates. The public nominations were reviewed by an independent advisory council composed of eminent Canadian academic, sport, cultural and thought leaders. They created a long list of nominees, which was followed by a public opinion survey to gauge the views of a representative sample of Canadians regarding those nominees.  With the help of subject matter experts and input from focus group testing, the advisory council then refined the public nominations to a short list of five qualifying candidates for submission to the Minister of Finance. The Governor of the Bank of Canada consulted with the Minister of Finance on the short list.

Focus groups were also conducted with Canadians on the design of the bank note, including the portrait and other visual elements that appear on the front and back of the note.

This consultation process was in line with the Bank’s design principles, which were developed to ensure that the Canadian public can play a greater role in the bank note design process.

The Bank will also be consulting Canadians on the portrait subject for the next $5 note, and we will provide more information about this next public consultation in due course.  We look forward to receiving many nominations of great Canadians.