Canada Just Beat The U.S. To The Punch, Yet Again, With Its Groundbreaking New Rule
While the United States still struggles to decide on a woman to appear on the $10 bill — and the honor will continue to be shared with a man — Canada has beat us to the punch. The new (dreamy) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a Canadian women will be added to a banknote there by 2018. Like so many things — say their universal single-payer healthcare system, gun control, and gay marriage — our northern neighbor arrived first to the party. To make matters worse, this will bring the total number of women featured on the Canadian loonie, or dollar as they are also officially known, to two.
Queen Elizabeth has been on almost all of the nation's currency since the Bank of Canada was founded in 1935. Before that, private banks issued Canadian dollars and way before that Canadian pounds. Some of those featured Queen Victoria. So they've been killing it since forever. But that's not good enough according to Trudeau. He announced the move on International Women's Day calling on the public to help select an "iconic Canadian woman." Joining him at the announcement was the country's finance minister, Bill Morneau, said even with Queen Elizabeth that Canadian women have "largely been underrepresented."
Canadians have been asked to nominate women on the Bank of Canada's website. The nominees have to be Canadian either by birth or naturalization and have died before April 15, 1991. So, no, sadly Celine Dion is not in the running. The names will be whittled down to a short list by a panel of experts and the Morneu, the finance minister, will make the final decision — hopefully with input from some women. The bank is releasing a new set of notes in 2018, and this one should be the first. The U.S. entry isn't expected before 2020.
The Guardian put together a list of Canadian legal tender contenders — some of whom you probably are not familiar with — who showed "leadership, achievement, or distinction" in their field, as the guidelines require. They include Canada's first female medical doctor, member of the Canadian House of Commons, and the author of Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery. Emily Carr is a famous painter. Nellie McClung was an awesome suffragette who staged a mock parliament discussing the dangers of giving men the vote.
Two in particular might be of particular interest to Americans. Viola Desmond helped spark the civil rights movement in Canada. Some provinces including Nova Scotia had segregated public spaces like movie theaters. Desmond was arrested in one and fought the charges. She lost but brought attention to the injustice nine years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat in Alabama. The other, Laura Secord, warned the future Canadians (still British at that point) about an impending U.S. attack in the War of 1812.
Meanwhile here in the United States, the woman who will appear on the $10 bill is still a mystery. In January, The New York Times reported that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew missed his self-imposed deadline to announce the new design in December. Treasury officials told the Times that the response has been enormous. The bill will released on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
Which women to choose is not the only controversy. A fight among monetary policy wonks contends it would be more appropriate to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 because Alexander Hamilton (who now graces the $10) was the first Treasury secretary and created the U.S. monetary system while Jackson was completely opposed to creating a central bank. The bills can't be switched out, though, because the $10 needs more counterfeit protections and aids for the visually impaired added, officials insist.
Canada is not the first country to beat the United States to the punch (although Martha Washington appeared on a $1 silver certificate briefly between 1891 and 1896). Mexico, Sweden, and Australia have all beat us to the punch. The Bank of England is also adding another woman to join Queen Elizabeth. They will start issuing £10 notes featuring Jane Austen in 2017.