Canada 150: How a Bank Note Tells a Story

The Bank of Canada is marking the country’s 150th birthday by issuing a commemorative bank note. You can buy some lunch with this special $10 bill, but take a good look at it first. Its visual elements are full of meaning and help to tell a story about our history, land and culture.

Bordering the large window are 13 maple leaves representing each of Canada’s provinces and territories. The three metallic leaves at the bottom of the window reflect the leaves found on the shield of the coat of arms, which represent the many peoples of Canada.

At the bottom of the large window is an image of Owl’s Bouquet, a stone-cut and stencil print by acclaimed Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak. A Companion of the Order of Canada, Ashevak has produced artwork that has been featured on a Canadian stamp and coin, but never before on a Canadian bank note. Ashevak lived and worked in Cape Dorset, Nunavut, the last territory to join Confederation, in 1999.

The pattern that appears across the top and bottom of the note is based on the distinctive Assomption, or arrow sash, which is an important cultural symbol of the Métis people. The sash also has significance to French-Canadian culture. Worn by habitants, the sash became a hallmark of the voyageurs and fur traders in the 18th century.

Representing Canada through meaningful visual content is a key aspect of the Bank’s formal bank note design principles. The artwork by Ashevak, the arrow sash pattern and the portrait of Senator James Gladstone—who represents the role of Indigenous peoples in government—allow the Canada 150 bank note to represent First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The note also depicts Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir George-Étienne Cartier and Agnes Macphail, three parliamentarians who’ve made significant contributions to Canada’s political history.

In addition, the note incorporates symbols of Canadians’ military service, including a vignette of the Hall of Honour, the central corridor of the Centre Block, and the Memorial Chamber Arch of the Peace Tower, both on Parliament Hill. Today, the Hall of Honour is decorated with various plaques commemorating the original Parliament building (destroyed by fire in 1916), Confederation and the First World War. The Memorial Chamber was dedicated in 1927 to all Canadians who died in military service during the First World War. It has since come to honour all Canadian men and women who gave their lives in service to their country.

The Canada 150 note began circulating on June 1. In all, 40 million commemorative notes will be distributed through Canada’s financial institutions. To get one, simply visit your local bank or credit union. Most of them will have a limited supply of these special notes to distribute over the counter. This is only the fourth commemorative note issued by the Bank of Canada in its 82-year history.
Visit Banknote150 to learn more about the design and security features of the Canada 150 note. Follow the Bank on Twitter (@bankofcanada) for the latest news about this special note marking the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

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