The many faces of the five-dollar bill

It’s time for Canadians to decide who the next face of the five-dollar bill will be. KMR Photography

And what’s up with their qualifications?

Early last month it was announced that the Canadian five-dollar bill is about to get a new look, which involves replacing Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s image with that of another significant Canadian. Similar to the process that occurred in 2016, which placed Viola Desmond on the Canadian $10 bill, the public will also be consulted in selecting who should be displayed on the new five-dollar bill.

Although I have some issues with the requirements regarding the nomination process, it is a good decision to redesign the Canadian five-dollar bill. Laurier has been on the bill for the last 51 years, making it time for another Canadian to be honoured.

In 1969, Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s image was placed on the Canadian five-dollar bill for the first time, as part of the Royal Canadian Mint’s Canada design series. Laurier was the first Francophone Canadian Prime Minister and likely chosen because of his significant contributions to Canada.

During his years of governing (1896-1911), he advocated for national unity, “promoted national development and expansion, [encouraged] immigration … [supported] the construction of a second transcontinental railway and [over saw] the incorporation into the country of … Alberta, Saskatchewan … (and) the Yukon territory,” as mentioned on the Bank of Canada’s website.

Over the last 51 years, the Royal Canadian Mint has released three different versions of the five-dollar bill (1986, 2001 and 2011) as part of their various design series. While these bills have received a new design, Laurier’s image has always remained.

It is definitely time for an upgrade.

On Jan 29, public consultation for selecting an individual to be displayed on the five-dollar opened up. Individuals have until March 11 to, as the governor of the Bank of Canada, Stephen Poloz, stated: “nominate any historic individual [who has] inspired them.”

A max of five names, along with a symbol, or image accompanying the nominees name, can be submitted on each submission form. Multiple forms can be submitted by an individual.

All names will be reviewed by a council of individuals from civic, academic and cultural areas of society. These individuals will research the nominees and create a list of possible candidates which they will then submit to the Minister of Finance, Bill Morneau, who will have the final say.

The decision of who will be featured on the new five-dollar bill will be announced later this year. From there, the design process will commence with the release of a new five-dollar bill in three to four years.

Although I’m glad that the public will have an input in this important decision, I disagree with some qualifications regarding nominees put forward by the Bank of Canada. For example, nominees can’t be a fictional character, which eliminates Prince Edward Island’s beloved Anne of Green Gables.

While I realize that she may be more relevant to the people of the east coast provinces, I can’t help but think that it would be amazing to have such an iconic Canadian fictional character displayed on our country’s currency.

Secondly, all nominees have to have been dead for at least twenty-five years (before March 11, 1995). This qualification seems unfair because it eliminates The Tragically Hip’s former front man, Gord Downie.

In my opinion, Downie is someone who extremely deserves the honour of being commemorated on Canadian currency. He was an individual whose songs always demonstrated Canada and the issues that mattered most to Canadians. His lifestyle and personality strongly embodied important Canadian values, like bravery, courage, dedication and charity.

I’m not the only one who wants to see Downie on the new five-dollar bill. Ever since news emerged about selecting a new person for the five-dollar bill, his name has been circulating on social media as a popular nominee choice. Some people have even pointed out that the five-dollar bill could be nicknamed “the Gordie,” which would be pretty damn cool.

While the nominees should be someone who has died, there shouldn’t any specificities on the length, because it excludes significant individuals.

However, there are many Canadians who would be an excellent choice for the new five-dollar bill, who have earned great “achievements [and/or demonstrated] leadership … for the benefit of the people/service of Canada.”

Terry Fox is my top choice because he is definitely a Canadian hero who not only brought all Canadians together to raise money for cancer research, but also created a legacy that still exists forty years later. Fox’s image on the five-dollar bill, is unsurprisingly being pushed for by the residents of his hometown, Port Coquitlam B.C.

I agree with Dave Teixeir, local Terry Fox run organizer. “Terry … is [a] national figure in Canada. He is … someone who would be wonderful to have on a piece of Canadian currency” as mentioned by CBC News.

Another individual who would make a good choice is Nellie McLung. Throughout the early 1900s, she not only fought for women’s rights and equality, especially when it came to suffrage and work pay, but also advocated for a variety of social, moral and human rights issues.

A third option would be Miles Gilbert, otherwise known as Tim Horton, a successful hockey defenceman who played four seasons in the NHL and helped found a small donut shop in Hamilton, Ontario, which eventually grew into the Tim Horton franchise.

Anne of Green Gables, Gord Downie, Terry Fox, Nellie MClung and Miles Gilbert ‘Tim’ Horton are all individuals who have made significant contributions to our country and deserve the honour of being commemorated on the five-dollar bill. However, it will be up to Canadians to decide who will be displayed. Anyone interested in submitting a nomination form should visit the Bank of Canada’s website.

To quote Poloz, a new five-dollar bill provides a “great opportunity to highlight the many stories of heroes, sometimes unsung ones, who have helped shaped the Canada we live in today.”

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