This is one of the sillier things I have read in a while. Canada has been designing new money that is supposed to deter counterfeiters, last longer, and be more environmentally friendly in its manufacture.
They have also been designing new graphics for the notes. The Bank of Canada held focus groups to see what people thought of the new designs. Some people in the focus groups complained that one of the images looked like an Asian woman. The Bank of Canada decided to withdraw the notes and redesign them so they looked more “neutral.”
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.
“The original image was not designed or intended to be a person of a particular ethnic origin,” bank spokesman Jeremy Harrison said in an interview, citing policy that eschews depictions of ethnic groups on banknotes. (Source: The Financial Post)
This is ridiculous. Caucasian features do not represent ethnically ‘neutral’ features. Furthermore, it is completely impossible to put an image of a person on a bank note without depicting an ethnic group. There is no abstract non-ethnic person that could be represented. There are only people who belong to one ethnic group or another. Caucasian people, too, belong to an ethnic group: namely the ethnic group of Caucasian people.
You want to see some ethnic groups depicted on Canadian notes? Just look at these images from the 2001-2005 series of notes:
You know what I see when I look at the above bills? I see people from various ethnic groups. The queen and the prime ministers are all Caucasian. Perhaps we might say that these are actual people and not generic representations, so of course they will be members of ethnic groups. Fair enough. But just to take the $5 bill as an example, there is a Caucasian boy and girl playing hockey (along with some others who are far enough in the background that their ethnicity is not really discernible). To the credit of the Bank of Canada, there is also on the $5 bill (though obscured in the picture above) a depiction of what looks like an Inuit child riding a toboggan. These are all members of ethnic groups, and there is really no problem with that. In fact, there would be no way to represent a human being without representing a human being that belongs to an ethnic group, because all human beings belong to (at least) one (or more) ethnic group(s).
Perhaps we should just go back to depicting animals, and remove those people from the bills altogether, so the notes look more like the back of the 1989-1991 series of notes:
I think I like this series best, any how.
Here is a different take by the Toronto Star: “The Currency of Racism in Canada.”
For a better description of what is supposed to be depicted on Canadian notes see J.J.’s Complete Guide to Canada.
For another take on the issue, see the blog Sociological Images “Colourblind Currency?: Canada’s New $100”
Update: February 10, 2013: According to the Huffington Post, the members of the focus group wanted more ethnic diversity to celebrate Canada’s multiculturalism, and it was Finance Canada that nixed many of these suggestions.