Women are having a moment of sorts in Canada. We’ve got parity in Cabinet, a year of maternity leave, access to birth control and abortions, and most of us have been voting for like, one hundred years. Holler.
I’m really impressed and buoyed by the Change.Org-led campaign to get women back on Canadian currency, led by historian Merna Forster (totally signed that petition!). But I can’t get on board and cheer about the lone woman we’re about to get on our currency. A measly one woman on one banknote doesn’t get us even close to catching up. Why aren’t we pushing for parity here, like we are in other sectors? Perhaps we should be moving towards portraying a man and a woman on every bill, so as to not displace the dudes we’re used to, while introducing women alongside them.
What else? The recently announced long list of twelve Canadian women that will be considered by an Advisory Council was bound by the comical and curious constraint that the woman nominated needed to have been dead for 25 years. This stipulation seriously restricted the pool of eligible women, especially given our country’s relatively short history overall.
Let’s not forget that in 2012, an icebreaker replaced images of the women’s rights movement of the early 20th century on a new $50 bill or that focus groups that same year scrapped an Asian-looking scientist from an updated $100 bill. Real leadership, real “feminism” – whatever you want to call it – will mean getting beyond the superficial feel-goodness of a single banknote and extending the presence of historic Canadian women elsewhere in the public realm.
But hey – the Bank of Canada received more than 26,000 submissions nominating more than 460 women.
Here are some ways that government and some of our public institutions can honour the other 459.
First, Canada Post can regularly issue stamp sets celebrating historic Canadian women. They could even do it all year, “because it’s 2016.” It’s a simple move for the institution to execute and they have honoured women in the past. In fact, they currently have a collector’s stamp on Women’s Suffrage. More, please. Maybe fewer Star Trek stamps.
Next, as banking becomes increasingly digital for my millennial generation, banks should consider customizing debit or credit cards, as is possible in the United States. For those out there that still use cheques, let’s give them the option of a chequebook (binder?) full of amazing Canadian women that they can showcase while they pay their bills. Though banking habits are changing, personalization is one way for banks to differentiate themselves and cater to those that favour customization.
The Royal Canadian Mint could issue collectible coins or some special-edition quarters, in addition to the “women’s right to vote” series they put out this year. If I can purchase a “special edition set” of the Looney Tunes or Batman vs. Superman (which I can), I should be able to score a set of outstanding Canadian women.
Historica Canada has an excellent new Heritage Minute on Viola Desmond. They have 14 filed under “women” (I’m including “Rural Teacher,” “Nursing Sister,” and “Midwife”). Out of 80 available online, that’s 18%. Announce a series on Canadian women and ride the momentum of #BankNOTEable women, guys.
In Ottawa, we can also review the names of our federal buildings. We might also need a “Walk of Fame” for great Canadian women. I mean, we have an entire museum dedicated to hockey.
In Toronto, TTC Metropasses or PrestoCards could feature great Toronto women for the year.
It’s not a public institution, but certainly a Canadian book publisher could buddy up with the Bank of Canada to release “Rad Canadian Women A-Z,” like this.
It’s time to create more of a market for lauding outstanding ladies and to push other public institutions to champion their legacies as well.
That said, I already see ladies everywhere in public spaces – but they are usually scantily clad and trying to sell me something dumb. I can’t think of anything sexier or more Canadian than more of our public institutions wo-manning up and celebrating the many bank-note-able women that have shaped our country as well as hat-tipping the ones that are doing it every day.
Don’t stop once the new bill comes out. We will all have to keep pushing for these representative interventions, just like these pioneering women busted up barriers for us.
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