Bank of Canada Redesigned Banknote Because It Was "Too Asian"

The Bank of Canada's new $100 banknote design included a picture of a woman using a microscope and a bottle of insulin to celebrate Canadian's medical innovation. Focus groups engaged by the bank to critique the initial design, however, complained that the woman was "too Asian":

"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 banknote got redesigned so the woman has a "neutral ethnicity," but the move got slammed by Chinese Canadian National Council as "bending to racism":

Victor Wong, the group's national executive director, called on the bank to amend its policy of not depicting visible minorities. "You're erasing all of us," he said from Toronto. "Your default then is an image with Caucasian features."

The Strategic Counsel conducted the October 2009 focus groups in Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Fredericton, at a cost of $53,000. The Toronto groups were positive about the image of an Asian woman because "it is seen to represent diversity or multiculturalism."

In Quebec, however, "the inclusion of an Asian without representing any other ethnicities was seen to be contentious." One person in Fredericton commented: "The person on it appears to be of Asian descent which doesn't rep(resent) Canada. It is fairly ugly."

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What do you think? Did the Bank of Canada do the right thing?


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If only one ethnicity were to be represented on ALL the different denominations they might have a point, but surely they can have an Asian female on the $100, a white male on the $50, and/or whatever spread of 'acceptable' ethnicities there might be. The article says that other denominations don't show people at all, so maybe they should have stuck with that for the $100 too.
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