On today’s date in 2014, an online petition calling for famous Canadian women to be added to Canada’s forthcoming banknote series reached nearly 48,000 signatures.
“In 2011, the only women from Canadian history to ever make it onto our bank notes were replaced by an icebreaker,” reads the petition, which was created by Merna Forster, a Victoria, B.C.-based author and historian.
“We call on the Bank of Canada to add women from Canadian history to our bank notes as soon as possible, and announce that all future series will feature females as well as males.”
‘DISAPPOINTING … INSULTING’
“It’s disappointing, it’s insulting, it’s discriminatory and it’s offensive,” said Forster in an October 2014 interview with CBC News.
“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 added. “This is not rocket science.”
The petition, which began in July 2013, 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.'”
SEEKING PUBLIC INPUT
In 2014, the Bank of Canada announced it was seeking public input on its banknotes but made no mention of adding women to any currency, claiming it wanted to wait for the consultation process to conclude before making any commitments.
According to the bank’s representatives, public opinion research prior to the release of the Frontier Series of banknotes showed Canadians wanted to celebrate collective achievements rather than individuals. For this reason, the Frontier Series features themes such as technological and medical advances rather than historic figures.
“These notes depict Canada’s exploits and accomplishments, endeavours in which Canadian women and men have contributed,” said central bank spokesperson Alexandre Deslongchamps in 2014, adding the current series—introduced between 2011 and 2013—is expected to last at least eight years before needing replacement.
The change.org petition was listed as a “confirmed victory” after garnering 73,446 signatories, and in March 2016, Finance Minister Bill Morneau offered his decision-making response.
“The advancement of women’s rights and progress has always been propelled by people like you—people who take the time to make a difference.
“Women are, and have always been, instrumental in building Canada into what it is today. Yet in our country’s nearly 150-year history, women, with the notable exception of the Queen, have been largely unrepresented on our bank notes.
“Like you, I’ve never felt that was right, and it’s why very soon after becoming Finance Minister I began discussing the idea with my colleagues and with Governor Poloz at the Bank of Canada.”
The Bank of Canada’s as-of-yet-unnamed eighth series saw its first issue last year, when Black rights activist and Nova Scotia businesswoman Viola Desmond graced a vertically oriented $10 note.
Unveiled on International Women’s Day in 2018, the note marked the first time a Canadian woman was portrayed on a regularly circulating Bank of Canada note. It was also the first vertical banknote issued in Canada.
“As we strive for equality across our economy and in every facet of our country, we hope this constant reminder of Viola’s story will help inspire a new generation of women, men, girls and boys to fight for what they believe, take their place and create a better future for themselves and all Canadians,” said Morneau.
The back of the $10 note features images and symbols that represent Canada’s ongoing pursuit of rights and freedoms. It depicts the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR)—the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. Also depicted on the note are an eagle feather (representing the ongoing journey toward recognizing rights and freedoms for Indigenous Peoples in Canada) and an excerpt from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Other notes in the new series will be released at a slower pace than previous series to allow technological innovations to be worked into their design as time goes on.