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New Canadian Currency Features Civil Rights Activist, Wins Innovation Award

Canada's new $10 banknote, featuring civil rights activist Viola Desmond, won "Bank Note of the Year" Award for 2018.
Shannon VanRaes
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Canada's new $10 banknote, featuring civil rights activist Viola Desmond, won "Bank Note of the Year" Award for 2018.

Updated at 10:24 p.m. ET

Canada's newest version of its $10 bill, a vertical format note released late last year and featuring a female civil rights activist, has won an international competition for innovative currency.

The Canadian bill featuring the image of Viola Desmond, a Nova Scotia businesswoman and social justice pioneer, was awarded "Bank Note of the Year Award" for 2018 by the International Bank Note Society.

Desmond is the firstCanadian woman to appear on that country's currency. The honor traditionally has been restricted to British royalty, such as Queen Elizabeth II.

The back of the note depicts the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The new polymer-containing bank note is purple and "just fractionally larger than neighboring United States currency bills," said the IBNS announcement. "Incorporating the latest in technological standards, the bold security features are easy to check and difficult to counterfeit."

"The organisation considers the artistic merit, design, use of colour, contrast, balance and security features of each nominated bank note," the BBC reported.

The banknote dominated the competition "almost from the start," the IBNS said. Runners-up included Switzerland's 200 Franc note, Norway's 500 Kroner, Russia's 100 Ruble, and Solomon Island's 40 dollar bill.

Canada also has confirmed that its next four new notes will adopt the vertical format.

Desmond holds a place in Canadian history similar to civil rights icon Rosa Parks in the United States.

In 1946, Desmond was arrested for refusing to sit in a blacks-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theater. She was fined "for attempting to defraud the provincial government" on the 1-cent differential price charged between the theater's black and white sections. She received posthumous free pardon in 2010.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: May 1, 2019 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of this story misspelled Winnipeg as Winnepeg.
Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.