WINNIPEG (CITYNEWS) – Sgt. Tommy Prince is one of Canada’s most decorated Indigenous war heroes, and he’s now in the running to be on the next Canadian $5 bill.
In January, the Bank of Canada asked the Canadian public for suggestions for the next $5 bill. They did something similar in 2016, when a public consultation led to Viola Desmond being chosen for the $10 bill.
Shauna Mulligan, registrar for Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones, says Prince accomplished many heroic feats including repairing a communications wire from behind German lines in World War II.
“He managed to do it in plain sight of German soldiers and not be identified,” said Mulligan. “He grabbed some clothing from an Italian farmer, dressed himself up as an Italian farmer, went down the farming line to see if you could find where the wire had broken, fixed it and left, all without being spotted by Germans.
“Hopefully having him on the $5 bill will allow people to have that physical connection with history.”
Prince amassed 11 medals from Canada and the United States during his service, but wasn’t afforded a hero’s welcome upon returning because he was Indigenous.
“While he was away from home, he had the full rights and privileges of all other Canadian citizens,” said Mulligan. “But the moment he stepped back on Canadian soil, he was subject to the Indian Act and the provisions within that.”
That means he couldn’t leave his reserve without permission, he couldn’t vote, and he couldn’t enter any establishment that served alcohol. It also means he couldn’t attend the Royal Canadian Legions.
Mulligan hopes that if Prince is chosen for the $5 bill, it will be a step in the right direction for reconciliation.
“Perhaps in having Sgt. Tommy Prince on the bill, it would bring to light the inequities that Indigenous veterans faced, and that Indigenous veterans still face,” she said.
Prince could be facing competition from another Manitoban — Terry Fox. There’s also a campaign running to get him on the bill.
The Bank of Canada says from the start of a campaign, it takes three to four years for a new bill to be created.