First Canada Vertical Bank Note for Woman Who Stood Up to Racism

(Bloomberg) -- Canada unveiled its first-ever bank note bearing vertical images, honoring a woman who stood up against racism more than seven decades ago.

The new C$10 ($7.72) bill featuring Viola Desmond was presented Thursday in Nova Scotia, the province that jailed her in 1946 for sitting outside a movie theater zone that was segregated for black people. Following remarks by Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, her surviving sister Wanda Robson stole the show.

Flashing the note to someone in the crowd she drew laughs by joking, “Don’t look at my bill, you can’t have it.” She later was moved to tears with the tributes, saying “I will never ever forget this day. I can’t -- it’s written in history.”

The new currency was brought out on International Women’s Day, and shakes up a history where the main female face was Queen Elizabeth II, while many of the others were white men such as former prime ministers. Other nations like the U.S. and U.K. have also moved to change the imbalance between men and women depicted on money.

Canada joins Switzerland and Bermuda among nations with vertical notes, central bank spokeswoman Rebecca Ryall said.

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