A Victoria author who led the charge to put women on Canadian bank notes hopes the announcement of the new Viola Desmond-bearing $10 note is the first of many more.

Merna Forster has been campaigning since 2014 to have the Bank of Canada put important women from Canadian history on its bank notes.

Her efforts finally paid off earlier this year, when the Bank of Canada invited her to be part of the advisory council that came up with a shortlist of candidates for a new note in 2018.

The Bank ultimately decided on Desmond for the new $10. And with Wilfred Laurier and John A. MacDonald set to replace William Lyon Mackenzie King and Robert Borden on the $50 and $100 bills respecitively, the $5 bill is wide open.

"I would of course like to see another Canadian woman [on the $5]," Forster told All Points West guest host Richard Zussman. "[Desmond] is supposed to be the first of a new series."

viola desmond

Viola Desmond, an entrepreneur and civil rights activist from Nova Scotia, will adorn the face of the new Canadian $10 note, thanks to Forster's efforts.

'Canada's Rosa Parks'

Desmond, an entrepreneur and civil rights activist from Nova Scotia, is often referred to as "Canada's Rosa Parks." She was jailed in 1946 for refusing to leave the whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow.

She was charged with tax evasion for failing to pay the one-cent difference in tax on the ticket — even though she offered to pay it.

"Even though some people have never heard of her, she did play a big role in standing up against segregation in Canada," Forster said.

Website generates mockup notes

Forster focused her efforts by writing articles for teacher newsletters and sending letters to every sitting MP.

She also created the website womenonbanknotes.ca, which allows users to submit photos and generate their own mockups of new note designs using those photos.

"That actually proved to be very useful, because it got people involved," Forster said. "Journalists would use those images that people had suggested."

Forster was also very active on social media and caught some lucky breaks tweeting at high-profile Canadians.

"One day I sent a tweet to Margaret Atwood, and she said she'd signed the petition and she retweeted to all her thousands of followers," Forster said. "By the end of the day I was on CTV national news."

The new Desmond-bearing notes are slated to debut in 2018. Meanwhile, Forster has some recommendations for who to put on the soon-to-be-vacant $5 bill: in her books, 100 Canadian Heroines and 100 More Canadian Heroines.

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West


  • A previous version of this story said Forster had campaigned to have Viola Desmond put on the $10 bill. In fact, she campaigned to have women put on Canadian banknotes. Desmond was chosen by a Bank of Canada advisory committee.
    Dec 12, 2016 3:40 PM PT