Canada’s banknotes are polymer, counterfeit-resistant, holographic and modern. And they’re hopelessly behind the times.
Canadian women need to be represented on Canadian currency. It’s a notion that was put forward by a citizens’ movement in Victoria and has now been championed by Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson, the NDP’s critic for the status of women.
The lack of women on our bills wasn’t always this concerning. Our $50 notes used to feature the Famous Five and Thérèse Casgrain, advocates for women’s voting rights. But those ladies have long since been replaced by a decidedly masculine-looking Arctic icebreaker. With the removal of the human-rights heroines, that leaves us with an anonymous clip-art medical researcher on the back of the $100 and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the $20.
The problem won’t solve itself. After the Queen’s passing – long may she live – the monarchy will be headed by king after king after king. And although we fully expect Canada will elect female prime ministers over the coming decades, it takes a long time for partisan politicians to become respected historical figures.
It’s only right and it’s only fair that women appear on our money. Our country’s cabinet is 50 per cent women because it’s 2016, and other institutions should be similarly scrutinized.
There are countless candidates whom we can honour on our banknotes. If worthy women don’t come to mind, then we aren’t looking hard enough. Their stories are under-represented in history texts, but of course women have always been here, building our country, our culture and our identity right alongside the men.
Our polymer bills, however durable, will wear out, and we will need to print new ones, and we should always try to find ways to celebrate different segments of our society. Leaders, pioneers, artists, thinkers and difference-makers. Heroes and heroines.