Photo courtesy of vancouversun.com
Recent reports show that in 2009, the Bank of Canada caved to focus group results and changed the ethnicity of a woman depicted on a draft of the new $100 bill. Apparently, this woman—shown peering into a microscope next to a bottle of insulin and a coil of DNA—looked too Asian.
Some focus group participants took issue with the idea of an Asian representing Canada. Others pointed out that showing the woman looking into a microscope reinforces stereotypes about Asian people excelling at sciences. But the message was loud and clear: an Asian person did not belong in the design.
To remedy this affront to good old-fashioned Canadian sensibilities, the Bank of Canada had the woman redrawn so that she appeared to be of "neutral ethnicity," as one spokesman explained. By doing this, designers were conforming to a Bank of Canada policy that prohibits the depiction of ethnic groups on bank notes.
There's a bit of reading between the lines required to parse this vague language, but it's pretty simple. The woman was redrawn to a neutral ethnicity (read: white), because the Bank of Canada's policy is to refrain from depicting ethnic groups (read: minorities).
For a country that loves to boast about its "cultural mosaic," this seems very out of line. What's so very threatening about an Asian person on a $100 bill? What's this weird policy about not depicting ethnic minorities (oh, sorry, ethnic "groups," because being Caucasian certainly isn't an ethnicity)? And what if some future Canadian hero belongs to a minority group? Does that mean they're banned from our bills because they're not "neutral" enough for us?