The Royal Canadian Mint has launched a new toonie to commemorate the legacy of B.C. Haida artist Bill Reid, more than 20 years after his death.
The new $2 coin enters circulation Tuesday, on the 100th anniversary of Reid's birth.
"The mint is delighted to add the story of Bill Reid's pivotal role in raising awareness of Haida art, and the traditions and culture it represents to the long list of circulation coins celebrating what makes us proud to be Canadian," said Marie Lemay, president and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint in a written statement.
The commemorative coin was set to be launched in B.C. earlier this year, but its release was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trailblazer of Northwest Coast art
Reid's work is widely acknowledged for helping to bring global recognition and respect to Northwest Coast art.
Born in Victoria, B.C., in 1920 to a Haida mother and American father with Scottish-German roots, he began exploring his Haida heritage in his early 20s. Reid eventually became renowned for his detailed carvings, like Raven and the First Men — a cedar sculpture at the UBC Museum of Anthropology.
He died in 2018 after battling Parkinson's disease.
The artwork appearing on the toonie honouring his legacy is known as Xhuwaji, Haida Grizzly Bear. Reid painted it in 1988 on a ceremonial drum belonging to the Sam family of Ahousat, B.C.
"Millions of Canadians will experience the power and beauty of Bill Reid's art as this coin finds its way to them in their change," said Lemay.
Reid's granddaughter also praised the coin's design in a virtual launch ceremony posted on the mint's YouTube channel.
"This coin is a gorgeous tribute to Bill. It represents the high esthetic standards that he believed in," said Nika Collison, executive director of the Haida Gwaii Museum.
Three million coins will be produced, including two million featuring Xhuwaji, Haida Grizzly Bear in the red and black colours of Haida artistic tradition.
The mint is also selling commemorative items in several forms, including a six-piece collector coin set, wrap rolls of 25 toonies, a fine silver coin, and a pure gold, engraved version of Reid's grizzly bear.