Traffic Control Box Public Art
Artist’s Statement
Dean Martin

Toronto’s downtown financial district is at the heart of Canada’s economic engine – decisions made here have long shaped our country’s destiny and will continue to do so. The individuals we choose to feature on our currency are also reflective of nation building; of who we are and how we see ourselves. This perception however, has evolved greatly over the years and nowhere is it more apparent than in the diversity of those we seek to acknowledge and celebrate.

Four individuals, each currently or formerly featured on the Canadian ten-dollar bill, illustrate this point. They come from vastly different backgrounds – some born of privilege, others from more humble beginnings. All exude dignity and character, yet their contributions to society are quite different. It is only through perspective that we are able to properly evaluate and place them accordingly into our past, our present and ultimately, our future.

The figures presented, when viewed up close, are compelling yet seemingly abstract. It is only from a distance, i.e., having the benefit of perspective, do they unfold and reveal themselves. The pairings on each traffic box are also significant because of the contrast they provide; who was deemed appropriate and worthy yesterday versus who we consider to be that today.

  • Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood, was an active supporter of the Voluntary Aid Detachment, the Women’s Land Army, and the Girl Guides.
  • Viola Desmond, a woman of colour who has become an iconic and integral symbol of the civil rights movement. A Black Nova Scotian businesswoman who challenged racial segregation, her case became one of the most publicized incidents of racial discrimination in Canadian history and helped start the modern civil rights movement in Canada.
  • George-Etienne Cartier was a father of Confederation and leading proponent of establishing the Civil Code into Canadian law.
  • James Gladstone was Canada’s first Indigenous senator from a treaty First Nation, who has been described as devoting his life to the betterment of Canadian Aboriginal peoples.

This is meant to be more than a one-way journey that simply re-evaluates yesterday’s values versus today’s. It is about standing far enough back to see that character and contribution manifest in different ways and that it can come from anyone, a feature of Canada that make us the envy of the world.