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Bank of Canada chief 'absolutely open' to idea of woman on currency next time

OTTAWA – Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz says he is “absolutely open” to the idea of putting an identifiable woman back on Canada’s currency, but that will have to wait until the next roll-out of bills.

The central bank has taken heat from women’s groups for removing the so-called Famous Five, relating to the Supreme Court case that recognized women as persons, from the $50 note in the most recent roll-out of polymer bills.

Poloz acknowledges he had a weighty petition with 22,000 signatures plunked on his desk recently drawing his attention to the omission.

The petition, organized by author and historian Merna Forster, has been signed by a number of luminaries, including author Margaret Atwood and actors Kim Cattrall and Cynthia Dale.

“I really appreciate having the petition …. It’s impressive but we’re not going to change the notes tomorrow. But that will be a nice input to have in the next series,” Poloz said in an interview, adding that he found the arguments well-reasoned.

“I’m absolutely open to the idea” for the future, he said.

Canadian women may have to wait a few years, however, possibly as much as a decade. And there are no guarantees.

Poloz says the process takes years and includes public consultations and focus-group testing to settle on a theme and the images to display the theme.

In the current series, which cost $20 million to develop, the chosen theme was “frontiers” dealing with Canadian breakthroughs. He notes there are no images of recognizable men on the notes either, except for a few prime ministers. An image of the Queen, of course, is on the bills.

It falls on Poloz to defend the new bills, even though their design was chosen under his predecessor Mark Carney, who has since received praise by announcing he intends to place a portrait of Jane Austen on the new British 10-pound note.

“Jane Austen certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our banknotes,” Carney, now the Bank of England governor, said in a news release over the summer.

Poloz unveils the last of the series — the $5 and $10 notes — on Thursday, with the lower denomination note bearing his signature.

They feature former prime ministers Wilfrid Laurier and John A. Macdonald on the front, and the Canadarm and a train rolling through the Rockies on the back, respectively.

“We’re pretty proud of them and actually the images are beautiful,” he said. “They really do represent things that Canada achieved.”

“I know people may find (the lack of women) disappointing … but let’s think of that as the next big idea that’s landed on my desk for the next series.”

The new $100 polymer note features an image of a female medical researcher peering into a microscope.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story, a previous version wrong said a female researcher was peering into a telescope