Canada’s new vertical $10 bank note

Project Owner: Bank of Canada 


On November 19, 2018, the Bank of Canada began circulating its new $10 bank note, featuring the portrait of Viola Desmond, an icon of human rights and social justice. This note’s introduction marks a new direction for Canada’s polymer notes. This new $10 continues the Bank’s tradition of designing secure notes that are readily accepted and have broad appeal among Canadians, while, at the same time, pursuing innovation with a vertical orientation, a new portrait subject, and a broad and engaging public consultation process. This note marks the first time that Canadians were actively involved in a portrait selection, a process that launched important conversations across the country about rights and representation.

The introduction of this $10 also marks a shift towards a staggered approach to note issuance allowing the Bank to integrate the latest security features each time a new note is issued, and ensuring Canadians continue to use their notes with confidence.

The design catalyst for this new note is its portrait subject, Viola Desmond. To learn more about who she was and what she represents, please review the attached narrative. It also succinctly highlights how this new regularly circulating $10 note complies with the IACA award criteria. Within are links to videos and images showcasing the design and security features of the new $10 note.

NOTE: The flow of the text and added details contained in the attached will do justice to describing this momentous project – a bank note like no other in Canada’s numismatic history.

New feature (s) or technical innovation

Please review the attached nomination paper for details.
This new $10 note continues a strong tradition of innovation by the Bank of Canada to ensure that Canadians maintain trust and confidence in their money. In addition to the innovative consultation process used to design the note, enhanced security features help to keep these notes safe from counterfeiting, yet easy for Canadians to use.

This note uses intaglio ink to create a dark background print for the large high contrast number ‘10’ in the top corner on the front of the note. This near full coverage intaglio bleeds off the edge of the note and creates both visual interest and a tactile element not seen on previous Canadian notes. It is also an excellent vehicle for the magnetic and infrared inks, producing a strong signal for machine readability.

Legal tender

Improved security

Please review the attached nomination paper for details.
A distinct component of this new $10 is the substrate design and its integration with the overall design of the note. The repeated geometric patterns that appear printed on the note are also mirrored in the large window border design. This content is reflected on both the front and back of the note adding to the cohesive design. The complex window border has the added benefit of presenting additional challenges to counterfeiters who use altering/upping techniques.


Please review the attached nomination paper for details.
In summary, the new vertical $10 note is unique in many ways:

  • It is the first vertical note issued by the Bank of Canada.
  • It is the first regularly-circulating note to feature a Canadian woman as the portrait subject – Viola Desmond.
  • The vertical design allows for a more prominent image of Desmond – fitting for the first portrait subject nominated by Canadians. The selection of Desmond was the final step in the broadest public consultation campaign ever undertaken by the Bank to help choose which iconic Canadian woman would appear on this new note.
  • It is the first regularly-circulating note to adopt a formalized set of Principles for Bank Note Design – the foundation upon which visual content for bank notes is now being developed.

Historical or local content

Please review the attached nomination paper for details.
Along with the portrait of Desmond, other visuals help broaden the story of rights and social justice. Examples:

  • map of Halifax: shows the North End of the city where Desmond lived and worked; this is symbolic of the community that supported Desmond as she challenged her criminal conviction.
  • Canadian Museum for Human Rights: This national museum is dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. It aims to inspire and promote respect for others, while encouraging reflection and dialogue.
  • eagle feather: a symbol of truth, power and freedom, the feather is intended to represent the ongoing journey towards recognizing rights and freedoms for Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

In focus groups, Canadians told the Bank that these images and the themes of human rights, equality and respect align closely with their values and contribute to their overall sense of pride.[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”file(32)”]

Awards | Currency Awards 2019


Best New Banknote or Banknote Series


Finalist | Winner