Historians look to have northern Ontario woman on Canadian currency

As the federal government gets set to include the first Canadian woman on a banknote, historians in northern Ontario say there are many candidates that should be considered who are from this region.

The Federal government recently announced a woman will appear on banknotes

(Britainy Robinson/CBC)
The federal government announced it will be putting a Canadian woman on one of our dollar bills. Laurentian University history professor Linda Ambrose specializes in social history and the history of Canadian women. She shared some of her suggestions.

As the federal government gets set to include the first Canadian woman on a bank note, historians in northern Ontario say there are many candidates that should be considered who are from this region.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the image of an iconic Canadian woman will appear on the next issue of bank notes, expected in 2018. Now, the Bank of Canada is holding public consultation to determine who that woman will be.

According to the bank, the nominees can be any Canadian woman, either by birth or naturalization who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, achievement or distinction in any field. The nominees cannot be a fictional character and must have died prior to April 15, 1991.

Laurentian University history student Laura Robinson is applauding the idea, as Canada's currency currently only features the images on men, with the exception of Queen Elizabeth II.

"We're not trying to take away or disregard the work that past [male] politicians have done," she said. "But an opportunity for change. And show the diversity of Canada, truly."

Robinson's class made a presentation last fall at a mock-parliament about the need for more diversity on Canadian money. She said many history classes still treat women in Canada as a unit, rather than seeing how many have been significant  figures in Canadian history.

"We talk about how women make about 73 cents on the dollar compared to men," she said.

"Women are in some ways disregarded for their contributions to Canada in general."

Who to choose?

Women's historian Linda Ambrose said there are many potential candidates from northern Ontario who should be considered, including Barbara Hanley who was the first female mayor in Canada. Hanley was elected in 1936 in Webbwood, about 70 km west of Sudbury and served for a decade.

Ambrose said another important woman is Jeannette Corbiere Lavell from Wikwemikong First Nation, who lost her Indian status for marrying a white man in the 1970s.

Linda Ambrose is a professor of history at Laurentian University in Sudbury. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

But it's more about than just changing who is on Canadian money, Ambrose said, and about opening up the history of women the public hasn't heard of.

"The solution might not be add more women until we can get an equal score," she said.

"I don't think the point is to have the same number as women as men on the currency, rather, instead, it's about representing diversity by gender and by other social variables.

The Bank of Canada is taking suggestions of which women to pick until April 15.


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