Canada Richer for Women

By Sampert, Shannon | Winnipeg Free Press, April 28, 2016 | Go to article overview

Canada Richer for Women


Sampert, Shannon, Winnipeg Free Press


The idea -- blasphemy, really -- of having a Canadian woman on our money is gaining momentum after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on International Women's Day in March a woman will be put on a banknote. That's what you get when you put a feminist in office. Now if they could just make it so women are paid the same amount as men, we'd have real progress.

In 2004, the Bank of Canada did honour the Famous Five -- the activists who sought to have women legally considered "persons" in 1927 -- and political leader Thérèse Casgrain on a new $50 banknote. That was the first time Canadian women had appeared on a bill; the March announcement was designed to address this deficit.

The Bank of Canada asked Canadians for their nominations; when the nominations closed earlier this month, more than 26,000 names had been put forward. The criteria were pretty straightforward. Had to be a Canadian (by birth or naturalization). Had to "have demonstrated outstanding leadership, achievement or distinction in any field." Had to have been dead for at least 25 years. Had to be real -- no Anne of Green Gables allowed.

Now it's up to an advisory council to review the list and whittle it down to about 10 to 12 names. The council will then speak with historians and produce a short list of three to five names. Then, the governor of the Bank of Canada and the finance minister will make the final call. The banknote will be produced in 2018.

Our southern neighbours are also getting set to put women on their less colourful bills. Last week, the treasury secretary announced abolitionist Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the US$20 bill. This is the first time in more than a century a woman has been on U.S. currency. Just as swiftly, the backlash began. The Twitterverse erupted with concerns Tubman is too ugly for the honour. Not too sure Andrew Jackson was a stud, but the outpouring of hatred toward someone who likely didn't care one bit about her looks was breathtaking and once again supports the theory the public education system (at least in the U.S.) needs to be revamped. Let's hope the same doesn't happen here in Canada when the announcement is made, but that's like hoping it won't snow in January in Winnipeg.

I'm a bit struck that somehow we have to limit ourselves to just one woman. Of the five bills we have in circulation, one already has a woman on it: Queen Elizabeth II on the $20. Then we have former prime ministers Wilfrid Laurier ($5), John A. Macdonald ($10), William Lyon Mackenzie King ($50) and Robert Borden ($100). Why not have two women and two men to keep things equal?

The big question is: who should be on our bills? Some impressive names have come forward. Of course, Nellie McClung is high on the list. McClung was famous for pushing for Manitoba women to have the right to vote. She was successful, and in 2016, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the beginning of women's suffrage in the province. …

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