Emily Carr has been the face of the Chemainus dollar since 2010. The renowned Vancouver Island artist is one of 12 finalists to become the first Canadian woman on the front of a Canadian banknote.

Emily Carr has been the face of the Chemainus dollar since 2010. The renowned Vancouver Island artist is one of 12 finalists to become the first Canadian woman on the front of a Canadian banknote.

Emily Carr driving Vancouver Island hopes as the face of Canadian money

Renowned Island artist already on Chemainus currency, finalist to repeat that feat on a new national banknote

Emily Carr remains Vancouver Island’s last and best chance to get one of our own women on Canadian currency.

But she is already legal tender in at least one Island community.

The renowned B.C. artist was revealed late last month as one of 12 finalists in the discussion about who will be the first Canadian woman to grace the front of our money. But it’s a perch she has held for six years in Chemainus.

In the spring of 2010, Vancouver Island’s mural town launched the Chemainus Dollar program, where you can trade your money in for professionally detailed, Carr-adorned $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills that you can use to purchase goods at par in a number of stores in The Little Town That Did.

Chemainus — which has in recent years augmented its longstanding mural attractions by incorporating elements featuring Carr and her works — chose her largely for the marketing potential.

But the five-woman, two-man panel charged with helping our country decide who breaks the longstanding national pecuniary gender barrier has a few more elements to consider. The successful candidate must have overcome barriers of her own, been inspirational, made a significant change and left a lasting legacy.

“The women who appear on our list should resonate with Canadians and reflect the diversity of Canada. Their achievements must be seen in the context of the time they lived,” the council said in a statement on the Bank of Canada website.

Vancouver Island University Women’s Studies chair Marni Stanley said local favourite Carr is a legitimate contender.

Carr heritage“While I personally would have preferred a candidate of political import I think Emily Carr is a good choice who will be very popular here on the West Coast,” she said. “While she was someone who approached life with humour and passion, she never lets us off the hook for the harm we can do as humans either to each other, or to this beautiful world she celebrated with such skill.”

While the exact denomination has yet to be determined, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged that when the 2018 series of bank notes rolls of the presses, a Canadian woman will be on the front of at least one.

While she said the issue has never been on the front-burner for her personally, Stanley fully supports the rationale behind the initiative.

“It’s not personally something I care that much about, but it is an important symbol,” she said. “Currency is designed to present some kind of identity of the culture. We have a currency that celebrates less than half the population. Canada is telling a story that only white men contributed to development of our country.”

The Victoria-based Carr — acclaimed worldwide for her works celebrating the West Coast rainforest and Aboriginal heritage — certainly defies that message.

The Bank of Canada describes her as “one of the pre-eminent Canadian painters in the first half of the 20th century — and perhaps the most original.”

Stanley said beyond Carr’s skill and popularity is a message that resonates with our national identity.

“Not only does she call attention to the unique eco systems of the west coast, but she also, in works such as Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky reminds us of the necessity of respecting the fragility of nature’s bounty and our responsibilities to the earth,” she said.

“As well, in works such as The Crazy Stair she was an early advocate for respecting the sophistication and complexity of Indigenous cultures while warning her audience of the threat of colonization.”

Karl Schutz

Six years after the Chemainus currency’s launch, the town is scheduled to add at least two more Carr-related murals to the two already in existence. Chemainus Visitor Centre greeter Kelly Argue said the Carr dollars continue to circulate and attract the interest of tourists.

The bills themselves feature Carr’s portrait on the front superimposed over variety of Chemainus murals. The design of the new Bank of Canada note won’t be determined until after the subject is chosen.

Other than the queen and other members of the royal family, the only women to have graced Canadian currency were the Famous Five, the activists who successfully launched the court case that got women recognized as persons under Canadian law. They were on the back of the $50 from 2004 to 2011, along with Quebecois politician Therese Casgrain.

Stanley’s first choice for the front of the new bill was also the Famous Five, but she said the degree of thought and effort that has gone into this process is unprecedented and good for Canada.

The 12 finalists were chosen from 461 nominees submitted by 26,000 Canadians. After a public consultation, a short list of three to five women will be submitted to the federal finance minister to make the final selection.

“More thought, more attention, more process — it will be the best-chosen,” she said. “I’m not going to get my (choice), but it’s not going to be anyone I’m embarrassed with. I’m satisfied.”

For the complete list of nominees, click here.

Follow me on Twitter @JohnMcKinleyBP

Just Posted

The Somass Sawmill sits idle in early May 2021. While the kilns have been in use occasionally, and the lot has been used to store woodchips this spring, the mill has been curtailed since July 27, 2017. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni to expropriate Somass Sawmill from Western Forest Products

Sawmill has been ‘indefinitely’ curtailed since 2017

CELEBRATING INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY
Council members and witnesses from the Hupacasath First Nation, left, and Tseshaht First Nation, right, prepare to raise their respective flags in front of Port Alberni City Hall on Monday, June 21, 2021. The flags will permanently fly as part of the city’s reconciliation work. See more coverage from the flag raising ceremony on page A5. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Hupacasath, Tseshaht First Nations flags to fly at Port Alberni City Hall

Addition of permanent Indigenous flags are a response to reconciliation

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
B.C. teen who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews on scene at a boat fire near the boat ramp at Long Lake on Sunday, June 20. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Boat burns up on Nanaimo’s Long Lake, man and child unhurt

Jet skiers attempt to put out fire by circling around to spray water on burning boat

Robin Sanford and her fiance Simon Park were married in an impromptu ceremony at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on June 16. (Submitted photo)
Mom dies day after witnessing daughter’s hospital wedding in Abbotsford

Nurses help arrange impromptu ceremony in 3 hours for bride and groom

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. home owner grant won’t be altered, despite expert advice

Tax break for residences worth up to $1.6 million too popular

B.C. conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter said a black bear is believed to have killed local livestock. (THE NEWS/files)
Black bear believed to have killed miniature donkey in Maple Ridge

Trap set for predator that has been killing livestock

The Comox Valley campus of North Island College. (File photo)
North Island College launches first Indigenous Plan

The plan signifies NIC’s commitment to become more Indigenous serving

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki and Minister of Housing David Eby have been battling over the Victory Church shelter and BC Housing projects in the city. (File photos)
Penticton heads to court over homeless shelter as BC Housing audit begins

The city was not satisfied with the response from Minister David Eby regarding the ongoing situation

People enjoy the sun at Woodbine Beach on June 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
BC Hydro assures customers it has ‘more than enough’ power to weather the heatwave

Despite an increase of pressure on the Western grid, blackouts are not expected like in some U.S. states

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The number of skilled trades workers available is not enough to fill the current construction boom in Greater Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Supply of skilled tradespeople can’t keep up to Vancouver Island construction boom

Thousands of positions will be needed by 2030, despite flow of Camosun trades students

Most Read