The Bank of Canada unveiled its shortlist of Canadians who are under consideration to have their image emblazoned on the new $5 polymer bills.
The list of eight names, in alphabetical order, consists of:
Pitseolak Ashoona: [1904-1908] — 1983
Among the first generation of influential Inuit printmakers, Pitseolak Ashoona was born while travelling from Nunavik in Québec’s northernmost region, to the south coast of Baffin Island.
Despite giving birth to 17 children, she managed to build a career as an artist that spanned more than 25 years, leaving behind thousands of drawings, including more than 200 that have been made into prints.
Ashoona got her start as an artist through a federal program designed to help Inuit that wanted to make the transition from working as a hunter and trapper to being employed in the mainstream economy.
In 1974, she was inducted into the Royal Academy of Arts and in 1977 she was appointed to the Order of Canada.
Robertine Barry (Françoise): 1863 — 1910
Robertine Barry was a journalist, publisher, author and feminist who was also a founding member of Canadian Women’s Press Club.
In 1891 she was hired at La Patrie, a newspaper of note at the time. Writing under the pen name Françoise, she covered a number of issues key to women at the time including: women’s suffrage, social justice, shelters for the poor, the elderly, and female victims of family violence among others.
In 1899 she became the first woman to lecture at the Québec City branch of the Institut canadien and continued to lecture there for a number of years afterwards. In 1902 she also started her own, self funded, bi-monthly magazine: Le Journal de Françoise, which ran for seven years, publishing some 500 writers.
In 1904, she joined 15 other female journalists to create the Canadian Women’s Press Club, of which Barry was elected vice-president.
Binaaswi (Francis Pegahmagabow): 1888 — 1952
Francis Pegahmagabow was a band chief, Indigenous rights advocate and First World War hero who became a vocal advocate for Indigenous rights and self-determination.
Pegahmagabow fought at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915, where the Germans used chlorine gas for the first time and was promoted to lance corporal for his efforts. He was an accomplished sniper that is credited with 378 kills and the capture of some 300 prisoners. During the war, he also fought at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, and the Battle of Passchendaele in November 1917.
He is one of the most highly decorated Indigenous soldiers in Canadian military history. His honours include receiving the Military Medal in 1916 and two bars for his bravery at Ypres , Passchendaele, Amiens and Second Battle of Arras.
From 1921 to 1925, he served as the chief of the Parry Island Band, later serving as a band councillor from 1933 to 1936, during which time he lobbied the prime minister and policy-makers to reform and improve the government’s treatment of Indigenous peoples.
Won Alexander Cumyow: 1861 — 1955
In 1861 Won Alexander Cumyow became the first known baby of Chinese parents to be born in Canada.
He went to high school in Vancouver and went on to a career as a court translator speaking English, Cantonese, Hakka, and also Chinook Jargon.
Cumyow voted in 1890 but that right was taken away from him in 1895 when the provincial government took away the right to vote through a series of legal moves. He challenged the law in 1902 but the laws limiting his democratic rights would not be repealed until after the Second World War.
In 1949, at the age of 88, he voted again in the federal election held in that year, making him the only person of Chinese descent to have voted before and after the disenfranchisement legislation.
Terry Fox: 1958 — 1981
A national icon, athlete and activist, Terry Fox died of cancer in 1981 at the age of 22, after trying to run across Canada to raise money and awareness for cancer research.
During Fox’s Marathon of Hope, Fox, who had lost his right leg to the disease ran a marathon a day for 143 days covering 5,373 kilometres. He was forced to halt his run in Thunder Bay, Ontario when the disease spread to his lungs. He died nine months later.
Fox was awarded the Order of Canada in 1980 becoming the youngest person to receive the honour. The annual Terry Fox Run is held all around the world. As of April 2020 the Terry Fox Foundation had raised an estimated $800 million for cancer research.
Lotta Hitschmanova: 1909 — 1990
Born in Prague in 1909, Lotta Hitschmanova founded the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada in 1945, which advocated for the poor, sick and starving victims of war, natural disasters and substandard education.
Hitschmanova immigrated to Canada in July 1942 and soon moved to Ottawa where she took a job as a postal censor in the Department of War Services, reading the letters of German prisoners of war.
USC Canada has been credited with contributing to saving millions of lives in Europe, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, India and Africa and is still operating in 12 countries in Asia, Central and South America, Africa and Canada.
She won a number of international awards for her work and became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1969 and was promoted to a Companion of the Order in 1980.
Isapo-muxika (Crowfoot): 1830 — 1890
Isapo-muxika was a Siksika chief who negotiated on behalf of the Blackfoot Confederacy with the federal government, becoming a key link between Indigenous people and the North-West Mounted Police.
In 1865, as a minor chief he counselled against attacking the Hudson’s Bay Company’s supply lines, establishing good relations with fur traders and peace with the Cree. He even adoptied the adult Cree, Poundmaker, as his son.
Isapo-muxika kept his people from participating in the rebellion of 1885 against the federal government and convinced the Blackfoot to sign Treaty No.7 in 1877 giving him a reputation as an accomplished diplomat.
Onondeyoh (Frederick Ogilvie Loft): 1861 — 1934
Frederick Loft, who often went by his Mohawk name, Onondeyoh, founded the League of Indians of Canada. While the league is no longer operating it is still recognized as the first, national Indigenous organization in Canada and the inspiration for the Assembly of First Nations.
Loft fought in the First World War, out of a sense of duty to the British empire, and encouraged other Indigenous Canadians to follow in his example.
Through his writing and activist works he is recognized by many as one of the most influential Indigenous activists of the last century.
About 45,000 Canadians made suggestions
The list was culled down from suggestions from nearly 45,000 Canadians and compiled into an eligible list of 600 people.
According to the central bank, the names above made the cut based on five distinct categories. They changed Canada and Canadians for the better, their impact is known nationally across the country, their impact reflects Canadian values, they are uniquely Canadian and known beyond their local/regional communities, and they had an impact that is relevant today.
“Canadians put forward the names of hundreds of people who have changed Canada for the better,” said Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem. “I thank the Advisory Council members for their thoughtful and thorough deliberations, and I look forward to seeing which of these eight remarkable individuals will be featured on our next $5 bank note.”
The decision now moves to the office of Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who will announce the new face of the $5 bill early next year. The bill itself will be released into circulation some time after that.
Currently, the $5 bill bears the face of former prime minister Wilfrid Laurier, and the government has already said that his image will be on a higher denomination bill, most likely the $50 or the $100, when they get redesigned.