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.
“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 Merna 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,” added Forster, who’s the Victoria, B.C.-based author and historian that led the public campaign. “This is not rocket science.”
Forster’s change.org petition, which she 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 is now listed as a “confirmed victory” with 73,446 signatories.
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.”
On March 8 – International Women’s Day 2016 – Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an iconic Canadian woman would be featured on the first banknote of the forthcoming series, which is slated for release in 2018.
A public consultation was launched to choose an iconic Canadian woman to be featured on the first banknote of the Bank of Canada’s next series. More than 460 iconic Canadian women met the qualifying criteria, and the long list is now finalized. Following another round of public surveys, the bank’s advisory council will determine a final list of three to five people, from which Morneau will make the final decision.