Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney took the unusual step Monday of apologizing for any offense that may have resulted from the central bank’s decision to change the design of its new $100 bank note to make the woman featured on the bill less Asian-looking.
Last week, the Bank of Canada found itself in an embarrassing public relations blunder after internal documents revealed it had redrawn the image of the female researcher pictured on the note after questions were raised about the woman’s ethnicity. The image depicts a female scientist peering into a microscope, as part of the note’s theme that pays tribute to Canada’s history of medical innovation.
But eight focus groups consulted about the proposed images for the new $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 banknote series were especially critical of the choice of an Asian for the largest denomination.
“Some have concerns that the researcher appears to be Asian,” says a 2009 report commissioned by the bank from The Strategic Counsel, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
“Some believe that it presents a stereotype of Asians excelling in technology and/or the sciences. Others feel that an Asian should not be the only ethnicity represented on the banknotes. Other ethnicities should also be shown.”
A few even said the yellow-brown colour of the $100 banknote reinforced the perception the woman was Asian, and “racialized” the note.
The bank immediately ordered the image redrawn, imposing what a spokesman called a “neutral ethnicity” for the woman scientist who, now stripped of her “Asian” features, appears on the circulating note. Her light features appear to be Caucasian.