People & Culture

Representing Canada’s geography on the new $5 bill

With eight names on the slate for the new bill, what geographical features should make the shortlist?

  • Nov 20, 2020
  • 631 words
  • 3 minutes
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The Bank of Canada has people talking as it considers its eight-person shortlist of whose face will adorn the next five-dollar note. From Inuit artist Pitseolak Ashoona, to war hero Binaaswi (Francis “Peggy” Pegahmagabow), to journalist Robertine Barry (“Françoise”), the names were selected from more than 600 eligible nominees.

As the Bank of Canada weighs its options, here are our team’s ideas for Canadian geographical icons that could land on the new five-dollar bill.

Aaron Kylie, editor-in-chief and associate publisher: 

A map of the Arctic Archipelago

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Robert Izett/Can Geo Photo Club

Why? Because it’s an important part of this country, but so rarely seen or thought about by most of the people who live here. Plus, it stands to be one of the regions most impacted by global warming. 

Niagara Falls

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Patrick McNeill/Can Geo Photo Club

Why? It could quite possibly be Canada’s most iconic geological feature. And it is pretty damn impressive — irrespective of how touristy it is. Plus it closes a loop: it’s believed that the first photo ever taken in Canada was of Niagara Falls.

Michelle Chaput, director of education:

Lesser-known Canadian endangered species, like burrowing owls, gray foxes, narwhals, caribou and the eastern prickly pear cactus

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Kathryn Kopciuk/Can Geo Photo Club

Why? It’s crucial that we raise awareness about Canada’s wild places and species that are challenged by an uncertain future due to human land use.

Tanya Kirnishni, special projects editor

Something that is representative of the Indigenous Peoples in Canada

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Siv Heang Tav/Can Geo Photo Club

Why? Most First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures highlight the connection to the land as being an integral part of their ways of life and knowing. So maybe something like Haida Gwaii cedars with the totem poles, or Prairie grasses with a Red River cart or a teepee, or the Arctic with an Inuksuk.

Angelica Haggert, digital editor 

The Great Lakes

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David Rowe/Can Geo Photo Club

Why? The Great Lakes hold one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water. They also hold 20 per cent of all the liquid water on Earth’s surface! Plus, as an added bonus, loads of Canadians live at the water’s edge of these lakes — about 32 per cent of Canada’s population!

Abi Hayward, assistant editor

B.C.’s glass sponges

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Sally Leys/DFO/CSSF

Why? Thought to be extinct until the 1980s, B.C.’s glass sponge reefs are utterly unique. Discovering them was literally the invertebrate equivalent of finding out that T. rex was still alive. They play a vital role in their ecosystem by filtering thousands of litres of water and they’re just generally really cool.

Canada jay

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Robyn Cartwright/Can Geo Photo Club

Why? What could be more Canadian than our national bird (according to Canadian Geographic)? Also known as whiskey jacks, grey jays and camp robbers, the Canada jay is found coast to coast to coast — a hardy, friendly little creature which has been good company for hunters, hikers, trappers and tourists alike (and which — speaking from experience — will not hesitate to steal your sandwich).

Dominque Patnaik, education program coordinator

The boreal forest

Tree in snow under blue sky Expand Image
Julie Anne Chabot/Can Geo Photo Club

Why? When I think of Canada, I often think of boreal forest: the animals that rely on it, the trees that grow in it, the people that work in it. It allows for many of the things that we associate with being “Canadian” to exist. It also stores twice as much carbon per acre as tropical forests, is an important bird nursery and accounts for 25 per cent of the remaining intact forest.


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