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5 women’s groups weigh in on who is banknote-worthy

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[THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick]

With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement that a woman other than the Queen would finally reappear on a Canadian banknote, articles, blogs and social media are abuzz with potential currency candidates.

The Bank of Canada has asked the public to submit nominees, with the criteria being “iconic” Canadian women of distinction who have been dead for at least 25 years. Since the announcement dozens of names have been floated online, including famed suffragette Nellie McClung, 1812 war heroine Laura Secord and Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery.

In hopes of broadening the pool of “note-worthy” women candidates, Yahoo Canada News reached out to 15 national women’s organizations and here’s what five of them had to say.

Karen Dempsey, president, National Council of Women of Canada

On the news that a Canadian woman would be represented on a banknote in 2018:

“I thought it was wonderful that a worthy woman would be honoured this way, and hope that it will be followed by many more. As a feminist I would have to say that any way in which we can pay tribute to the women who made this country what it is, is welcome and long past due.”

Who would you like to see be considered for this banknote honour?

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[Lady Ishbel Aberdeen]

“My first choice would have to be the first president of the National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC), Lady Ishbel Aberdeen. She came to Canada in 1893 with her husband who was to be the governor general. She became president of NCWC in 1893 when the organization was first founded in Canada. Other worthy women would include Dr. Emily Howard Stowe [first woman doctor to practise in Canada], Therese Casgrain [politician and suffragette], Cairine Wilson [Canada’s first woman senator] or Alice Jamieson [first woman judge in Canada]. There are really too many notable women to mention here, any of whom would be worthy of this honour.”

Loris Thomas, Ontario representative, Congress of Black Women of Canada

Who would you like to see be considered for this honour?

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[Kay Livingstone]

“A person of colour on a Canadian currency would certainly be a great recognition for this community. The woman who immediately comes to mind for us would be our very own Kay Livingstone, the founder of the Congress of Black Women of Canada. She was made an historic person in 2012. Another would be Dr. Rosemary Brown. Any woman depicted on Canadian currency should be celebrated by us all… women and men! Certainly we would love to see a black person; however, there are women of all races who have made their respective contributions to Canadian society.”

Native Women’s Association of Canada

“NWAC is thrilled to learn that the Bank of Canada has opened up nominations to all Canadians to put forward names of individuals they feel worthy of appearing on the new Canadian note. This is a fantastic opportunity for Canadians of all walks of life (many of whom indigenous, we hope) to partake in making history.”

Who would you like to see be considered for this honour?

“Naturally, our organization is keen on an indigenous woman being chosen for the new bill. There are a plethora of powerfully influential women leaders from our communities to choose from — whether they be First Nations, Métis or Inuit, from all walks of life, and from all areas of expertise. Our national office has put out a call to our provincial and territorial member associations across the country to provide their insight and expertise on who they feel would make a great candidate. As a collective, our organization will soon be submitting the names of three outstanding indigenous women we feel are deserving of this prestigious honour.”

DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) Canada

“We are delighted that the new government will address the awful decision taken by the previous government to take women off banknotes. We hope however that they will ensure that rather than simply bringing back a woman or two, that all our banknotes represent the diversity of Canadians including the many disabled, immigrant and racialized, LGBQT and indigenous heroes that are part of our true and whole history, and that this would (of course) include at least one woman with a disability and that at half of all banknotes feature women (in all their diversity) and men (in all their diversity).”

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[Maria Barile]

Who would you like to see be considered for this honour?

“We would love to see Maria Barile featured. Maria was one of DAWN Canada’s co-founders and she also co-founded Action des femmes handicapées Montreal. She was well-known and well-respected and is considered a pioneer in feminist disability activism. She spoke out against violence faced by people with disabilities, and women with disabilities in particular, and spent her entire life ensuring their voices were heard and their needs were met. To have a woman with a disability on a Canadian banknote would be an important symbol of inclusion.”

Nancy Peckford, national spokesperson, Equal Voice

Who would you like to see be considered for this honour?

“I think it’s important to consider a really diverse group of women who may not be well-known to Canadians. I’m inclined to go with someone whose name we’re not familiar with because her role has been obscured. I’d like it to be someone surprising, because the reality is we under-celebrate women’s role in the evolution of Canada’s democracy and there are lots of women out there that Canadians don’t necessarily know about.”