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A hologram security feature is seen on the new Canadian 100 dollar bill made of polymer in Toronto November 14, 2011. The Bank of Canada purged the image of an Asian-looking woman from its new $100 banknotes after focus groups raised questions about her ethnicity.

MARK BLINCH/Reuters

The highly touted redesign of Canada's $100 bill has come under fire amid revelations that currency designers edited out the ethnicity of a woman depicted on an early draft of the banknote, following complaints from focus groups.

The changes came after the Bank of Canada showed proposed images of the new $100 bill, which entered circulation in November, to focus groups across the country in 2009. According to documents made public by The Canadian Press, participants in focus groups in Fredericton and Montreal objected to a scene on the back of the bill depicting a woman who appeared Asian peering into a microscope.

A member of the Fredericton focus group suggested the image didn't represent Canada, while in Montreal "the inclusion of an Asian without representing any other ethnicities was seen to be contentious," said the Bank of Canada documents. A focus group in Toronto did not object to the image and said it reflected the country's diversity.

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But before the new banknotes were released to the public late last year, the image was changed to fit with Bank of Canada policy of not highlighting specific ethnicities, a spokeswoman for the Bank said. Those revelations led to questions from Canada's Chinese community, which held a news conference in Toronto on Friday questioning the move.

"It's our position that the Bank caved to the criticism and that's really unfortunate," said Victor Wong, national executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council.

The new $100 bill is designed to highlight Canada's contributions to science. The Bank of Canada said its policies are to avoid depicting any specific ethnic group in such designs.

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