I have to admit I am really happy the Royal Canadian Mint has issued a coin commemorating Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize in literature.
This isn’t the first time a living Canadian’s achievement has been honoured on a coin. Back in 1997 we saw a silver dollar commemorating the anniversary of the famous Team Canada vs. Russia Summit Series of 1972 and the famous goal by Paul Henderson. Since then we have seen a few Canadians honoured on coins, most notably Walter and Wayne Gretzky on three 2011-dated coins.
We also honoured Canadian Olympic moments on a series of coins featuring the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games.
You may notice a theme here, for the most part, the only living people who are not members of the Royal family to make it on our coins do so by playing sports.
Sure, there are many cases of individuals used as models for specific coin designs, or included in a design as part of a subject, but very few are named as individuals.
Now don’t get me wrong about sports. When we do well on the international state I cheer as loud as my neighbour. If that sport is hockey, even more so, especially if we win against an old rival such as Russia or the United States.
It is just that Canada is more than wild animals, trees, and people playing hockey. We are also a country with a rich heritage in arts and science. It seems that until now, we have always waited for our great minds to die before honouring their achievements.
Munro’s achievement is pretty special. She started off as a farmer’s daughter in rural Ontario and paid her way through university. As an author, she explored the short story format in revolutionary ways, often developing new versions of the same story. When it comes to creating complex and interesting female characters, few are better.
I’m not so positive about the other new issue, a coin marking the canonization of Pope John Paul II.
It isn’t about religion and state, it just seems that he really had a somewhat tenuous connection to Canada.
Sure he was the first pope to visit Canada, but we already honoured that achievement on a coin issued a few years ago.
Having said that, there is little doubt that John Paul II will go down in history as a significant person, and that his strength and vision did much to energize the Roman Catholic Church.
Ultimately, of course, the final verdict on any coin isn’t up to me, or even up to the Mint. The decision is made by Canadians, who will vote with their wallets.