March 8, 2018
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Viola Desmond becomes first Canadian woman to be featured on a bank note

Speech by the Honourable Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance
Unveiling of the New $10 Bank Note

Check Against Delivery

Thank you, Governor! Welcome, everybody!

It's great to be here in Halifax. What better place to tell Viola's story than right here, where it all took place.

We have many guests of honour here, including The Honourable Arthur J. LeBlanc, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, and Her Honour Mrs. Patsy LeBlanc. Thank you for joining us.

I also see Speaker Geoff Regan, my colleagues Scott Brison, Celina Caesar-Chavannes and Bernadette Jordan.

A special thank you as well to Mayor Mike Savage, Regional Chief Morley Googoo, and distinguished Senators and Members of the Legislative Assembly.

It's clearly a big day for Halifax. And, frankly, it's a big day for Canada.

It's particularly great to be having this historic event on International Women's Day.

It's hard to believe it was two years ago today that the Prime Minister and I announced that for the first time in our 150-year history, a Canadian woman, and her story, would be featured on the money we all carry with us every day.

I want to thank Governor Poloz and his team for their vision and leadership, and the Advisory Council members for their in-depth consultations, perspective and for bringing Viola Desmond's story to so many Canadians.

Of course, it was you, Wanda, Viola's younger sister, who tells that story better than anyone—and who stole the show when we first announced that your sister would be on the $10 bill.

As you know, it has always been a priority of mine, and of our government, to celebrate the immense contribution women have made—and continue to make—in shaping Canada's history.

When this note goes into circulation later this year, it will remind each of us how important it is to recognize all the contributions made by Canadian women—not just on International Women's Day, but every day.

The symbols we carry around in our pockets are small but important reminders of what makes us who we are.

They need to better tell our stories.

Viola's is just one of millions of stories from women who helped shape, build and influence Canada.

But it's an important story, because it shows that standing up for what we believe—whether it's on the steps of Parliament Hill, or in a movie theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia—can make our country and our world a better place for future generations.

Viola was tireless as she chased her dreams, travelling far and wide to pursue an education when local beauty schools would not admit Black students.

With courage, hard work, and an entrepreneurial spirit, Viola set up her own studio, her own school, and her own line of beauty products.

And all this took place in the 1930s and 1940s, when the deck was doubly stacked against Viola, because of both her gender and the colour of her skin.

Of course, Viola is best remembered for that night in 1946, when she would not move from a seat that she had every right to occupy.

And even after being arrested and convicted, Viola would not let it go.

And we're glad she didn't.

Her legal challenge galvanized the Black community in Halifax's North End, and paved the way for a broader understanding of the importance of human rights across the country.

Last week I presented a federal budget focused on equality.

The chance for everyone to participate fully in our economy.

I talked about pay equity, sharing parental leave, equality of opportunity for women entrepreneurs and the need for more diversity around boardroom tables.

These are all themes Viola would recognize—and she might even be a little disappointed that, though we've come a long way since that night in 1946, we still have a ways to go.

It's why her story inspires me, and our government, to do better.

It was Viola who pointed the way toward equality.

It's no wonder then, that on the back of the note, we chose to feature the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, as well as an excerpt from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The designers also included powerful symbols of truth, power and freedom, to remind us that we must continue to advance reconciliation with all Indigenous Peoples—First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation.

This note really brings Viola Desmond's story into the present to represent Canada's ongoing pursuit of equality and of diversity as a strength, not a weakness.

Isn't it incredible?

It really is moving.

I know this, because we had the cameras rolling when Wanda got a sneak peek. Please have a look at this short video.

Wanda, you are absolutely right that one woman's actions can really make a difference.

And it is true that your actions, Wanda, made a difference by helping us remember your sister's story.

I'd like to invite Wanda to say a few words. She tells her big sister's story better than anyone.

And it's a great privilege for me, Wanda, to have met you and your family and to be up on this stage with you once again.