CMHR Joins Viola Desmond on New CDN $10 Bill

Canada’s new and first vertically oriented $10 bill is now in circulation. Both sides of the purple polymer banknote tell a story of how a single act of courage and defiance gave rise to Canada’s ongoing pursuit of human rights and freedoms.


The front of the bill features civil rights activist Viola Desmond, the first black person and non-royal woman ever to be pictured on a regularly circulating bill. A story largely unknown to many Canadians for years, Desmond was jailed after her refusal to leave her seat in the “whites-only” section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre in 1946. In a time and place where racial segregation was commonplace, Desmond’s act stood up against the systematic discrimination experienced daily by many African Canadians.

On the other side stands the PCL-built Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), a bricks-and-mortar symbol of the progression we have made as a country since Viola Desmond’s courageous act in 1946.  Officially opened in 2014, the national museum explores the evolution and future of Canadian human rights and is the first museum to be printed on Canadian currency. Standing as a beacon to visitors from around the world, the CMHR encourages us to reflect on what we can do to bring change to future generations.


“Viola’s story is a significant thread in the fabric of who we once were and now are as a nation. We live in a country that has the guts to shine a public light into its dark corners and use this same light to show us a better path forward,” said PCL Winnipeg senior construction manager Rob Duerksen, responsible for overseeing the construction of the CMHR.

Racial segregation was legally ended in Nova Scotia in 1954, partly because of the publicity that Desmond’s case generated. Her defiant stand is featured in an exhibit housed in the CMHR’s Canadian Journeys gallery.

“PCL is proud to have played a part in the amazing story line that will be showcased not only in Canada, but all over the world on our new $10 bill.”


  • ​Completed in 2014, the museum is designed and built to meet LEED® Silver Certification for environmental sustainability.
  • The building design includes many unique elements strongly related to human rights themes, such as four stone “roots” that symbolize humanity’s connection to Mother Earth, a Tyndall stone “mountain” that houses the gallery spaces, a vertical “Hall of Hope” full of illuminated alabaster-clad ramps that crisscross in an irregular pattern up eight stories to a skylight, a light-filled “Garden of Contemplation” beneath a massive glass “cloud,” and an inspiring “Tower of Hope.” 
  • The Tower of Hope rises to 100 meters (328 feet), or about 30 stories: 23 meters taller than Manitoba’s Golden Boy and eight meters higher than Ottawa’s Peace Tower.


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