A change in Canadian banknotes was ushered in in 2018 to feature important Canadians who affected change in Canadian society, and also placed vertically for the first time. Black rights champion Viola Desmond was the first featured. A new face for the $5 bill is now being sought (Bank of Canada)

New Canadian banknote: but who will be featured?

Canada is beginning to change its banknotes once again.

The first major change came with the $10 note in 2018 when the image on the face was that of Viola Desmond, a black Nova Scotian businesswoman who fought for her civil rights years before the better known Rosa Parks in the U.S. It also placed the image vertically for the first time.  On the reverse is an image of Canada’s Museum for Human Rights.

Now Canada is looking for a new image to use on a forthcoming $5 note and is looking for more prominent, or unique Canadians.

The face of the current $5 note features former Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier. He will be replaced by the new choice, but will appear again on a higher denomination in the future ( Bank of Canada)

The new image will be announced in early 2021. but the shortlist of candidates has been released.  The list was culled from over 45,000 suggestions by Canadians and then reduced to some 600 eligible candidates.

Candidates must have had an effect on Canada and Canadians for the better, must be known nationally, and reflect Canadian values.

  1. Pitseolak Ashoona  (1904-8,-1983) was a prolific Inui artist, who in spite of giving birth to 17 children, left a legacy of art of which more than 200 have been made into prints. She was inducted into the Royal Academy of Arts in 1974 and in 1977 into the Order of Canada
  2. Robertine Barry ( pen name-Francoise)- (1863-1910) was a journalist, publisher, author and feminist who was also a founding member of Canadian Women’s Press Club. Her writing often promoted social issues relevant to women such as women’s suffrage, social justice, shelters for the poor, the elderly, and female victims of family violence among others.
  3. Sgt-Maj. Francis Pegahmagabow (1888-1952), was a WWI decorated hero who fought in several major campaigns. Postwar as chief  of the Parry band in Ontario, he lobbied  for reform of the government treatment of First Nations peoples.
  4. Won Alexander Cumyow  (1861-1955) was the first known baby of Chinese parents to be born in Canada. He later became a court translator fluent in English, Hakka,  Cantonese and Chinook jargon
  5. Terry Fox (1958-1981) Fox died of cancer in 1981, but had become a national icon for his attempt at a cross country run with his artificial leg (the other having been lost to cancer) . The Marathon of Hope run was to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. His run ended in Thunder Bay Ontario after 5, 373 kilometres when cancer had spread to his lungs. and died nine months later. He had received the Order of Canada in 1980 for his efforts, and Marathon of Hope, or Terry Fox runs continue in several places in Canada and elsewhere around the world, to this day. Some $800 million has been raised for cancer research.
  6. Lotta Hitchmanova. (1909-1990) was born in Prague and immigrated to Canada in 1942. and  in 1945 founded the Unitarian Service of Canada. The USC operates to this day in several countries  to advocate for the poor, sick and starving victims of war, and natural disasters, and for better education. The USC is credited with saving millions of lives since its founding. She was inducted into the Order of Canada in 1969 and promoted to Companion of the Order in 1980.
  7. Isapo-muxika (Crowfoot) (1830-1890) is seen as a First Nations diplomat for the Blackfoot Nation promoting  peaceful negotiations with the North-West Mounted Police and the federal government, and kept his people out of the 1885 rebellion
  8. Frederick Loft, (1861-1934) and also known by his Mohawk name, Onondeyo, is another veteran of the First World War who went on to found the League of Indians of Canada, the first national Indigenous organisation in the country, It was the inspiration for the current and influential Assembly of First Nations.. He is considered by many to be  one of he most influential of Indigenous activists of the  previous century.

Like the current VIola Desmond $10 note, this too will likely be a “vertical” note. The current figure on the $5 bill, former Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier, will be continued but on a higher denomination. in the next redesign.


The first Canadian bank note series in 1935 featured the images of British royalty, In 1937 when King George V died, the Bank of Canada issued new designs featuring just the new King on most noted but past Canadian Prime Ministers Macdonald and Laurier on the big denominations with all notes having both English and French for the first time.

The next change came in 1954 with the “Canadian landscape’ series, followed in 1969 with the “scenes of Canada” series.

In 1986 the “birds of Canada’ series was printed. In 2001 the Canadian public was consulted on images representing Canadian culture and achievement in the “Canadian journey’ series. The ‘Frontier series” came in 2011, printed on polymer for the first time with images of space exploration and the Canadarm2, the Vimy war memorial, VIA passenger train from Toronto to Vancouver and past Prime Ministers, Queen Elizabeth continues to grace the $20 note.

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