More than 50,000 people are putting pressure on The Bank of Canada to feature Canadian women on bank notes.
Historian and author Merna Forster launched a petition in November 2013 that asked the central bank to recognize the achievements of women by placing noted Canadians on bank notes. A year later the petition has garnered more than 50,000 signatures.
“Bank notes that belong to all Canadians should depict a wider range of Canadians, of both genders as well as various ethnic origins,” Ms. Forster said in the online petition on change.org.
Ms. Forster’s campaign has a large following on social media. Many people have been tweeting images of women they would like to see on bank notes.
The petition has been signed by Margaret Atwood, Charlotte Gray and NDP MP Niki Ashton.
“There’s nothing more insulting than not being recognized for your contributions,” Senator Nancy Ruth said. “Women are invisible. The only time we are visible is when we file for sexual assault.”
Ms. Ruth said she supports the petition, but wished the discussion to put women on bills came before the current series was released.
“It’s good that the petition is starting another conversation, but the timing isn’t necessarily the best. It could take years before another series is done” she said.
The current series of polymer bank notes depicts Canada’s innovation. The people represented on the bills include former prime ministers Sir John A. MacDonald, Robert Borden, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Queen Elizabeth.
“It’s not hard to integrate everyone into Canadian symbols, but we keep struggling with this,” Historian Margaret Conrad said.
Ms. Conrad suggested having historical women with productive political careers like Nellie McClung, Agnes Macphail and Cairine Wilson on bank notes.
“I’m not someone who believes entirely in historical progress. Things can regress, which is happening now,” she said.
Canadian women have been on a bank note before. The previous $50 note, which was part of the Canadian Journey series, featured the Famous Five and the Thérèse Casgrain Volunteer Award on it before the polymer bill in the Frontier series replaced the women with a Canadian Coast Guard ship.
Ms. Forster said Canada should follow England and Australia, which have women on their bank notes.
Former Governor of The Bank of Canada Mark Carney, now the Governor of the Bank of England, reversed a plan to replace Elizabeth Fry from the face of £5 notes with Winston Churchill, which started protests and a petition with 35,000 signatures, Ms. Forster said.
Current Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz responded to Ms. Forster’s petition when it was in its early stages.
“Canada has never featured recognizable individuals on the back of its notes,” he said.
Mr. Poloz noted that the bank consulted Canadians before it started working on the Frontier series.
“Canadians, when consulted by the bank, have told us they want designs that symbolize the collective, rather than individual, features and achievements of the country,” he said in the letter.
He agreed the bank should consult Canadians about not featuring individuals and said the process for developing the design could be more transparent.
“The recognition of women on bank notes is an issue the Bank of Canada takes seriously,” The Bank said in an email to the Globe and Mail.
“These notes depict Canada’s exploits and accomplishments, endeavours in which Canadian women and men have contributed.”
The Bank said in October 2014 it completed a review of the process used to select and design the visual content for the polymer series. The review recommends seeking more input from a greater number of Canadians.
Now it is developing a set of principles to guide the design of Canadian bank notes in the future.
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