Paper Money

Canada narrows its $5 note candidates to eight finalists

Lotta Hitschmanova (1909 to 1990) was one of Canada’s earliest grassroots humanitarians. She came to Canada in 1942 as a refugee from Czechoslovakia and founded the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada in 1945.

Images courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

The subject of Canada’s next $5 note will be taken from a list that was narrowed to eight finalists by an independent advisory council appointed by the Bank of Canada. The council comprises three men and four women from areas diverse both in expertise and geography.

Along with the list, the council issued a statement: “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. We deeply believe this list emphasizes the diverse contributions of Canadians to our shared history.”

The bank has submitted the list to the minister of finance, who in accordance with the Bank of Canada Act, will make the final decision. After it is announced, the bank note design process will begin.

The only aspects known so far about the $5 note are that it will be made of polymer with a vertical design, and that it is expected to begin circulating in a few years.

The eight names, in alphabetical order with biographies provided by the bank, are as follows:

Pitseolak Ashoona (circa 1904-1908 to 1983), a self-taught artist whose drawings and prints have been internationally exhibited and are held by museums and galleries throughout Canada. Her work, which reflects her own lived experiences following a traditional Inuit semi-nomadic lifestyle, provides a vivid record of the “old ways” of the Inuit of the Eastern Arctic.

Robertine Barry (1863 to 1910), also known by her pen name, Françoise, was the first female French-Canadian journalist, and an unyielding advocate for social justice causes, especially women’s equality in society. She was a staunch activist who championed the causes of women’s suffrage; women’s access to a university education; shelters for the poor and for female victims of domestic violence; the regulation of child labor; and the establishment of a secular Quebec ministry of public education.

Francis Pegahmagabow (1888 to 1952), or Binaaswi in the Ojibwe (or Chippewa) language, was a veteran of World War I, and the most highly decorated Indigenous soldier in Canadian history. Following the war, he assumed leadership positions with the Wasauksing First Nation (Parry Island, Ontario) and later participated in regional and national advocacy movements to promote Indigenous rights in Canada.

Won Alexander Cumyow (1861 to 1955) was the first known Chinese-Canadian born in Canada. His fluency in Cantonese and English let him bridge the divide between Vancouver’s English and Chinese communities. He was a police interpreter, and was actively involved in key Chinese community organizations, a voice for a disenfranchised people, and an influence in helping transform racist attitudes against Chinese people in Canada.

After losing part of his right leg, Terry Fox (1958 to 1981) campaigned to raise national awareness and funding for cancer research by running his Marathon of Hope, a cross-Canada 26-mile daily run, on his prosthetic leg. By February 1981, $24.7 million had been raised — or $1 for every Canadian. His run was interrupted after 3,339 miles when the cancer returned. Today, Terry Fox Runs are held worldwide to raise money for cancer research. The Marathon of Hope had its 40th anniversary in 2020.

Lotta Hitschmanova (1909 to 1990) was one of Canada’s earliest grassroots humanitarians. She came to Canada in 1942 as a refugee from Czechoslovakia and founded the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada in 1945. She devoted her life to helping people in need around the world, especially children, and inspired others to give generously to relief and development projects in Europe, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, South Vietnam, Palestine, India, Nepal, Indonesia and Africa.

Isapo-muxika or Sahpo Muxika (Crowfoot) (circa 1830 to 1890), was a leader of the Blackfoot Confederacy, known for a judicious use of diplomacy and for being an advocate for peace between Indigenous nations and settlers. Later in life, he also fostered peace with neighboring Indigenous peoples.

Frederick Ogilvie Loft, or Onondeyoh (1861 to 1934) was a Mohawk chief, World War I veteran, and political and social activist. He founded the first pan-Canadian Indigenous organization in December 1918 to advocate for the protection and expansion of Indigenous rights, helping lay the groundwork for contemporary regional and national Indigenous rights organizations in Canada.

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