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Canada ‘caved in to racism’ in banknote design

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-08-21

The head of Canada’s central bank has apologised for a decision, made in 2009 based on feedback from focus groups, to remove the picture of an Asian-looking woman on its new 100 dollar banknote.

Canada’s central bank has apologised after it emerged that the image of an Asian woman on its new 100 dollar banknote was changed, three years ago, to a picture of a Caucasian-looking woman.

The new polymer banknote, in circulation since November 2011, shows a female scientist peering down a microscope, as well as a bottle of insulin. The image was supposed to celebrate Canada’s medical innovations.

But in 2009 the bank made the decision to change the picture fearing that it would “racialise” the note.

Before it was released, eight focus groups tasked with examining the public reaction to the new note decided that it showed “an inappropriate stereotype – that Asians have an affinity for the sciences.”

“Some [members of the focus groups] have concerns that the researcher appears to be Asian,” said a 2009 report commissioned by the Bank of Canada from The Strategic Counsel, which was 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.”

The revelation caused outrage in the country’s large Asian community – 1.4 million Canadians can trace their ancestry to China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia.

On Friday August 17, a spokesperson for the Chinese Canadian National Council told national broadcaster CBC that the bank has “caved in to racist feedback” from some members of the focus groups.

"The Bank of Canada apparently took seriously ... racist comments and feedback from the focus groups and withdrew the image," said May Lui, head of the group's Toronto chapter.

"That was upsetting simply because of the history and longevity of Chinese-Canadians in this country."

On Monday August 20, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney apologised, saying that the final design of the 100 dollar note was drawn to avoid resemblance to any particular person, but admitted that it appeared to “represent one ethnic group.”

"That was not the bank's intention and I apologise to those who were offended - the bank's handling of this issue did not meet the standards Canadians justifiably expect of us," he said in a statement.

Carney said the design process for future notes would be reviewed, adding: "Our banknotes belong to all Canadians, and the work we do at the bank is for all Canadians."

Date created : 2012-08-21

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