Fun fact: In 2011, the only women from Canadian history ever to make it onto the country’s banknotes were replaced by an icebreaker.
The Famous Five, who were involved in having women recognized as persons under the Constitution of 1867 (along with Thérèse Casgrain, Canada’s first female political party leader), were run over by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Amundsen. Now that’s symbolic.
But now Margaret Atwood is throwing her name behind a new petition to get this slight corrected – and add some well-deserved estrogen to the country’s cash. The Canadian author has been making headlines more than usual of late, first with her endorsement of an as-yet-unsuccessful campaign to change the lyrics of the national anthem to make them more gender-neutral. Now on the eve of the world premiere of the ballet adaptation of her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, the Canadian author has taken to Twitter to express her support for the petition. (Canadian actress Kim Cattrall is another supporter.)
As the petition’s creator, B.C. writer Merna Forster points out that although the Queen remains on the $20 notes, there are no Canadian female faces rolling off the presses of the mint on any currency. These days, the wallets of the country are full to the brim with male prime ministers.
“Bank notes that belong to all Canadians should depict a wider range of Canadians, of both genders as well as various ethnic origins,” the petition reads.
The petition, addressed to Stephen Poloz, the relatively new Governor of the Bank of Canada, goes on to highlight the Bank of England’s recently announced plans to remove reformer Elizabeth Fry from the five-pound note and put Winston Churchill’s mug there instead. After a petition and the threat of legal action, the bank relented. Who was at the helm in England? That’s right, Forster points out, Mark Carney, former governor for this country’s bank who oversaw the all-male lineup for Canada’s new polymer bills. Instead, Mr. Carney announced that the new 10-pound note would feature British author Jane Austen, to great fanfare.
“An all-male line-up on banknotes is not acceptable in Canada, any more than it was in the United Kingdom,” the petition reads, pointing to nations such as Australia, where most banknotes include both a prominent male and female figure in history.
The debate over which female faces should earn the honour here has already started – Canadian actress Ellen Page earned at least one early vote on Twitter.
The petition, as of this afternoon, has over 3,400 supporter and it needs about twice that. And even then, it has some ways to go before it matches the outcry in Britain: The petition there to rescue Elizabeth Fry garnered 36,000 names, and about $21,000 in donations toward a legal challenge.
It remains to be seen whether Canadians are equally willing take a stand over the gender (and ethnic) inequity in their wallets.
But seriously, an icebreaker?