Petition calling for famous women on Canadian banknotes attracting thousands

A petition calling for famous Canadian women to be added to this country’s banknotes is drawing signatures from author Margaret Atwood, actress Kim Cattrell and thousands of others.

“It’s disappointing, it’s insulting, it’s discriminatory and it’s offensive,” Merna Forster, a historian and author in Victoria who has been leading the public campaign, told the CBC’s Dean Beeby.

“How many more surveys and public consultations will it take to convince the Bank of Canada to commit to including women on bank notes,” she said in an interview. “This is not rocket science.”

To date, the online petition has close to 48,000 names.

On her petition website, Forster states:

“When Mark Carney was governor of the Bank of Canada, the Bank decided to remove the images of the first notable Canadian women who finally made it onto our bank notes. While Queen Elizabeth II appears on $20 notes, the result is that there are again no women from Canadian history on our bills. It is unacceptable that female historical figures are not featured on the Polymer Series or another series – just male prime ministers and the Queen.

“In 2011, the Bank of Canada began issuing new $50 polymer bills which replaced images of The Famous 5 and Thérèse Casgrain with an icebreaker – rather than images of other female historical figures. Despite a public outcry over the new bills, the Bank of Canada made no changes to the series or firm commitments of more inclusiveness in future bills. Governor Carney issued a press release that indicated “Our bank notes belong to all Canadians, and the work we do at the Bank is for all Canadians.”

“Bank notes that belong to all Canadians should depict a wider range of Canadians, of both genders as well as various ethnic origins. Who and what is celebrated on our bank notes matters, as it reflects what we consider important in our culture and history and who we consider worthy of honouring for achievement. Women are not absent from the list of notable worthies in Canada, just notably absent or under-represented in many of the images that surround us and which contribute to our view of the world and our potential role in it.”

Recently, the Bank of Canada announced it was seeking public input on bank notes “Design Principles” but there was no mention of adding women to the currency.

According to the CBC article, the Bank of Canada says it wants to wait for the consultation process before making any commitment. The bank says previous public opinion research showed Canadians want to celebrate collective achievements, rather than individuals, and so the current series features themes such as medical advances rather than historic figures.

“These notes depict Canada’s exploits and accomplishments, endeavours in which Canadian women and men have contributed,” said spokesman Alexandre Deslongchamps.

Deslongchamps added that the current banknotes, introduced between 2011 and 2013, are expected to last for at least eight years before needing replacement so there is no immediate requirement for new designs.

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