Famed Inuit artist Pitseolak Ashoona shortlisted to appear on upcoming $5 Canadian bank note

A 1961 photo of Pitseolak Ashoona and other artists in front of the Cape Dorset print shop run by the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative in Arctic Canada. From left to right standing: Print studio manager Terry Ryan and artists Pudlo Pudlat, Pitseolak Ashoona, Napachie Pootoogook, Kiakshuk, Parr, Joanasie Salomomie. Seated from left to right: artists Eegyvadluk Ragee, Kenojuak Ashevak, Lucy Qinnuayuak. (Courtesy West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative)
Famed artist Pitseolak Ashoona is one of eight notable Canadians shortlisted to appear on the next $5 banknote, the Bank of Canada announced this week.

Approximately 45,000 Canadians participated in the call for nominees.

The eight shortlisted candidates were chosen from the more than six hundred nominees put forth during the public consultation period that ended on March 11. 

“Canadians put forward the names of hundreds of people who have changed Canada for the better,” said Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem, in a news release.

“I thank the Advisory Council members for their thoughtful and thorough deliberations, and I look forward to seeing which of these eight remarkable individuals will be featured on our next $5 bank note.”

Shortlisted Nominees
  • Pitseolak Ashoona: [c. 1904-1908]–1983;  Artist
  • Robertine Barry (“Françoise”): 1863–1910; Journalist and publisher
  • Binaaswi (Francis Pegahmagabow): 1888–1952; WWI veteran and Indigenous rights activist
  • Won Alexander Cumyow: 1861–1955; public servant and community leader
  • Terry Fox: 1958–1981; athlete and cancer research activist
  • Lotta Hitschmanova: 1909–1990; humanitarian
  • Isapo-muxika (Crowfoot): c. 1830–1890; Blackfoot chief, diplomat
  • Onondeyoh (Frederick Ogilvie Loft): 1861–1934; WWI veteran and First Nations political leader 
Shortlist criteria

The shortlist was put together by an advisory council made up of seven people.

“A list of eight names may seem like a very short list, but the selected nominees emerged from thoughtful considerations and deep deliberations, to ensure it is a list we would all be proud to present and stand by with determination, whatever the end decision is,” said the Advisory Council members in a statement.

“We deeply believe this list emphasizes the diverse contributions of Canadians to our shared history.”

Shortlist Criteria
  • Positive change: The shortlisted nominees should have changed Canada and Canadians for the better.
  • National icon: Their impact is known nationally across Canada.
  • Universality: They have had an impact in Canada and this impact should reflect Canadian values.
  • Uniqueness: They are uniquely Canadian and known beyond their local/regional communities.
  • Relevancy: They had an impact that is relevant today.
Noted artist

Pitseolak Ashoona (c. 1904-1908 –1983) was part of the first generation to participate in the Cape Dorset print and drawing program established in the 1950s in Kinngait (then known as Cape Dorset), an island community off the southwest coast of Baffin Island in Canada’s eastern Arctic.

In all, she produced almost 9,000 drawings, mostly focused on traditional Inuit life, and her work appeared in every edition of the annual Cape Dorset print collection.

She was elected a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1974 and she received the Order of Canada in 1977.

Finalist will be announced next year

The shortlist has been forwarded to Canada’s Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland who will announce in early 2021 whose portrait will appear on the note.

“Each of these people deserve recognition for their remarkable contributions to Canada,” Freeland said.  “They all overcame barriers, fought for their ideals, and have inspired generations. I invite all Canadians to learn about the stories of these incredible people.”

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Project to digitize works from Inuit artists gets further grant from Canadian Heritage, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Sámi-themed Finnish short film makes Sundance lineup, Yle News

Greenland: `Enough of this postcolonial sh#%’ – An interview with Greenlandic author Niviaq Korneliussen, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson lights up London’s Tate Modern, Blog by Mia bennett

Norway: Walt Disney Animation Studios to release Saami-language version of “Frozen 2”, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Russia’s Arctic culture heritage sites get protection, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden, Norway team up to preserve ancient rock carvings, Radio Sweden

United States: Set of Indigenous Yup’ik masks reunited in Alaska after more than a century, CBC News

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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