Bank of Canada announces list of women being considered for banknote

The Bank of Canada has announced a list of 12 iconic Canadian women who could be featured on the first in a new series of banknotes expected in 2018.

List of 12 women will be narrowed to 3 before being given to finance minister for a final decision

Nellie McClung helped women win the right to vote. She is one of the Famous Five who petitioned the British government to have Canadian women declared to be "persons." (National Archives of Canada/C.Jessop)

The Bank of Canada has announced a list of 12 iconic Canadian women who could be featured on the first in a new series of banknotes expected in 2018. 

The finalists include artist and writer Emily Carr, Inuit artist Pitseolak Ashoona, and Nellie McClung, who fought for women's suffrage. The list reflects women from several occupational fields and periods of history.

The independent advisory council took online submissions from the public following an announcement on International Womens' Day in March by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that it was time Canadian women appeared on our banknotes.

The submission process ended April 15 2016, and the advisory council received more than 26,000 submissions from the public from which they drew up the list.

List of 12

The list in alphabetical order:

  • Pitseolak Ashoona (c. 1904-1983): An Inuit artist with an international reputation. She is recognized for establishing a modern Inuit art form that incorporated traditional knowledge. 
  • Emily Carr (1871-1945): A famous artist and writer noted for her landscapes of the Pacific coast. 
  • Thérèse Casgrain (1896-1981): An activist and politician who led the women's suffrage movement in Quebec and became the first female leader of a political party.
  • Viola Desmond (1914-1965):  A black businesswoman from Nova Scotia who famously challenged racial segregation at a film theatre in her home province. 
  • Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-1990): A Canadian humanitarian who helped to found the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada which helped to send aid to Europe during the war. 
  • E. Pauline Johnson (1861-1913): A poet and writer whose performances reflect both English and Mohawk traditions and who is recognized as helping to shape Canadian literature.
  • Elizabeth (Elsie) MacGill (1905-1980): The world's first female aircraft designer. She worked as an aeronautical engineer during the Second World War. 
  • Nellie McClung (1873-1951): A political activist, teacher, social reformer and politician . She was a leader of the womens' suffrage movement and one of the famous five women who petitioned Britain to have Canadian women declared to be "persons."
  • Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942):  Canadian author best known as the author of Anne of Green Gables. 
  • Fanny (Bobbie) Rosenfeld (1905-1969): An Olympian who won gold in the relay race and silver in the 100 metre dash at the 1928 summer Olympics.
  • Gabrielle Roy (1909-1983): French Canadian author famous for The Tin Flute
  • Idola Saint-Jean (1880-1945): A Quebec journalist, educator and feminist who fought for the women's vote in Quebec.

Outstanding women

To be considered for the new banknote the nominee had to be a Canadian woman, either by birth or naturalization, who demonstrated outstanding leadership, achievement or distinction in any field. The nominees could not be fictional characters, and must have died prior to April 15, 1991. 

Emily Carr, one of Canada's most eccentric and well-known artists, is one of 12 women on the short list to appear on a Canadian bank note in 2018. (Canadian Press)

Each of the nominees have broken or overcome barriers, made a significant change, left a lasting legacy and are seen as inspirational. The criteria in the nomination process reflected each of those values.

 "The women who appear on our list should resonate with Canadians and reflect the diversity of Canada. Their achievements must be seen in the context of the time they lived in," the criteria said.

Over 460 of the Canadian women nominated by the public were considered. . 

"I am very pleased with the tremendous response to this campaign from Canadians, which shows just how much they care about who is represented on the banknotes in their wallets," said Governor Stephen S. Poloz.

 "I'd also like to thank the advisory council for their hard work in developing this truly impressive list and look forward to the next steps toward a new banknote in 2018," he said. 

Next steps

A formal public opinion survey will be held to gauge the views of a sample of Canadians regarding the 12 nominees.

The advisory council will use the results of this survey, together with input from historical experts, to develop a shorter list of three to five finalists for submission to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who will ultimately make the final decision, in accordance with the Bank of Canada Act.


  • A previous version of the story referred to a short list, but in fact a short list of three will be created from the list of 12 before being given to the finance minister for a final decision.
    Apr 30, 2016 10:19 AM ET