Who Are On Canadian Money Of All Time
Who Are On Canadian Money Of All Time. Photo Getty

Almost all countries in the world use their own currencies which reflect values of trade, history and identical culture of each nation. Canada is the same. Let’s find out who and what on Canadian money.

History of Canadian money

Canada decided to start using the dollar instead of the sterling pound due to the dissemination of the so-called Spanish dollar or peso in North America during the XVIII century and the early XIX, and also due to the standardisation of American dollar. The region of Québec was a real advocate for the use of the dollar (the Bank of Montreal issued banknotes in dollars in 1817), while the Atlantic colonies which had stronger links with the United Kingdom, were not so in favour.

The province of Canada stated that all accounts would be made in dollars from January 1858 and ordered the issue of the first official Canadian dollars in that same year. The colonies, which would join the Canadian Confederation soon, gradually adopted a decimal system in the following years.

Finally, the government approved the Uniform Currency Act in April 1871 to replace the currencies of the different provinces under one single Canadian dollar for all of them. The golden standard was officially abolished on the 10th April 1933.

Current Canadian dollar coins and banknotes

Today, we have banknotes of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollars.

Regarding coins, there are 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cent, and 1 and 2 dollars.

Who are on Canadian banknotes?

Five Dollar Bill - Sir Wilfrid Laurier And The Canadarm2

Who Are On Canadian Money Of All Time
Photo The Canada Guide

The Canadian five-dollar note is the lowest denomination and one of the most common banknotes issued by the Bank of Canada.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s 7th Prime Minister, has graced the nation’s sky blue five-dollar bank note for 50 years.

First appearing in 1972, the days of Laurier (also the namesake of a Coast Guard icebreaker, Wilfrid Laurier University, and numerous other schools, streets, and places) as the “face of the fiver” are coming to an end. An independent federal advisory council has released its shortlist of the eight nominees to replace him sometime in the next few years. The latest study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds that among the eight candidates, Terry Fox is named more than all others as the preferred new face, chosen by 57 per cent of Canadians.

Ten Dollar Bill - Viola Desmond And The Canadian Museum For Human Rights

Who Are On Canadian Money Of All Time
Photo The Canada Guide

Viola Desmond was a successful black businesswoman who was jailed, convicted and fined for defiantly refusing to leave a whites-only area of a movie theatre in 1946. Her court case was an inspiration for the pursuit of racial equality across Canada. Viola’s story is part of the permanent collection at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

In 2018, the banknote won the coveted Bank Note of the Year Award for 2018, beating out top designs from places like Switzerland, Norway, Russia and the Solomon Islands.

Desmond is often described as Canada's Rosa Parks, even though Desmond's act of defiance happened nine years before Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus.

Desmond's trailblazing efforts received little attention until recent years, but her legacy is being increasingly recognized. Her name now graces a Halifax Transit harbour ferry, a Canada Post stamp, a commemorative coin, a children's book, and streets named in her honour.

READ MORE: ONLY in CANADA: 9 Crazy Things You Should Know

Twenty Dollar Bill – Queen Elizabeth II And The National Vimy Memorial

Who Are On Canadian Money Of All Time
Photo The Canada Guide

Elizabeth’s image is featured on the backs of coins and on plastic-based C$20 ($15.28) bank notes that were first introduced in 2011. Those bills will remain in circulation, and the central bank said it’s up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to decide if new notes will feature the image of her successor, King Charles III.

Will Charles III replace Queen Elizabeth on Canadian money anytime soon?

It’s customary, as soon as one monarch dies, for the Royal Canadian Mint to begin replacing the currency, both coins and paper money, with the new one. The banknotes won’t be replaced overnight, but gradually phased out of circulation as new ones with Charles’ image replace them.

The same will happen with stamps, although there’s already a republican move afoot to replace the monarch on both banknotes and stamps, according to a Toronto Sun article.

Britain and a handful of other countries — including Australia, New Zealand and Caribbean island nations under the monetary authority of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank — will also have to make decisions on whether to update the imagery on their coins and bills to replace the Queen. So far, none have announced immediate plans.

But changing the image on our currency is not just about honouring a new sovereign, said Anastakis, but it's a way to mark the moment of history we're in right now.

“The stamps and coins of an independent nation on the eve of its 150th anniversary should celebrate its own people and achievements, not those living in the palaces of a foreign nation,” the Sun quoted Wayne Adam, of Canada’s Republic Now, as saying in 2016.

The group said the country’s current prime minister is a better candidate than the Queen, who appears on the obverse of most Canadian coins. She always faces right on coins. Charles will face left, honouring a tradition that goes back to the time of Charles II. Every time the monarch changes, the direction in which he or she faces on a coin is reversed. The same doesn’t happen with stamps.

The 20 dollar bill wins the 2004 “Banknote of the Year”

The Canadian 20 dollar bill released in 2004, the “Canadian Journey Series”, featured the most advanced currency security traits at the time. The bill features a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the front of the banknote. There is artwork inspired by the Haida culture on Canada’s Pacific coast on the reverse side.

The 2004 issue of the Canadian 20 dollar bill won the International Banknote Society’s 2004 Banknote of the Year. The Viola Desmond Canadian $10 won the same award in 2018.

Fifty Dollar Bill - William Lyon Mackenzie King And A Map Of Canada's North

Who Are On Canadian Money Of All Time
Photo The Canada Guide

Issued in November 2004, the $50 note features a portrait of Prime Minister Mackenzie King produced in Germany by Giesecke & Devrient (a security printer with subsidiaries around the world and parent company of BA International Inc.) using a computer-assisted engraving process.

This was the first time such a process was used to engrave the portrait on a

Canadian bank note, although elements of earlier notes in the series had been produced this way.

The Peace Tower appears in the centre of the note. The back of the note illustrates the theme of Nation Building and features the accomplishments of women who campaigned for equal rights and social justice.

Depicted is the statue of the Famous Five that can be seen on Parliament Hill and in Olympic Plaza in Calgary, Alberta, as well as the Thérèse Casgrain Volunteer Award medallion. The featured quotation is from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first draft of which was written by New Brunswick’s John Peters Humphrey.

One Hundred Dollar Bill- Robert Borden And A DNA Double Helix, And A Vial Of Insulin

Who Are On Canadian Money Of All Time
Photo The Canada Guide

Sir Robert Borden, Canada’s eighth Prime Minister, led the country through a very difficult period–the First World War. Borden helped galvanize the country through a conflict the likes of which had never been experienced worldwide.

The building: East and West Block architects, Thomas Stent and Augustus Laver, produced the ornate and elegant edifices hailed as shining examples of the Gothic Revival style. Construction was completed in the mid-1860s and the East Block tower is featured on the $100 note.

The East Block was the nerve centre of Canada’s government during its first hundred years. Distinguished Canadians who had offices in this block include Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and his fellow Father of Confederation and colleague Sir George-Étienne Cartier.

Who Are On Canadian Money Of All Time
Photo The Canada Guide

Researcher at a Microscope

A lab-coated researcher at a microscope depicts Canada’s long-standing commitment to medical research and innovation. The image of the microscope is based on a Carl Zeiss Axioplan 2 imaging microscope used for cutting-edge health research worldwide. Zeiss has been manufacturing precision mechanics and optics since 1846.


Insulin is one of the best known Canadian medical innovations. This image is of a very early insulin bottle, dating back to 1923. Frederick Banting and Charles Best were two Canadian medical researchers who discovered in 1921 that insulin could be used to treat diabetes. Many forget that diabetes was once a death sentence, but the discovery of insulin changed that. It was ground-breaking in its time and insulin continues to save millions of lives today.

DNA Strand

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the genetic blueprint of life. The DNA strand on the $100 note honours the researchers that have led the way in mapping our human genetic makeup in this field of medical science. This illustration was created for the Bank by a team of scientists and adapted for the design. It is not meant to demonstrate any particular element of a DNA structure. Where some of the $100 note’s design elements represent the history of medical research in Canada, the stylized DNA strand speaks to the future of medical innovation.


This image of an electrocardiogram symbolizes Canada’s contributions to heart health, including the invention of the pacemaker by John Hopps in 1950. The ECG track illustrated here shows the type of pattern consistent with a healthy human heart.

In the 1940s, Dr. Wilfred G. Bigelow and Dr. John C. Callaghan were Canadian heart surgeons working on cold heart surgery techniques. While experimenting, they discovered that applying a small electrical charge to the heart would stimulate it to beat, and when done regularly, could keep it beating at the correct rate. Bigelow and Callaghan then recruited electrical engineer John Hopps to build a device—the world’s first pacemaker.

Who are on Canadian coins?

Loonie (one dollar)

Who Are On Canadian Money Of All Time
Photo World Atlas

The Loonie is a large coin made of gold-coloured nickel. There used to be a one dollar bill, but it was phased out in the 1980s. The coin is called a “Loonie” because it has a picture of a loon, the national bird of Canada, on it.

Toonie (two dollars)

Who Are On Canadian Money Of All Time
Photo World Atlas

The Toonie or Twoonie is a distinctive-looking coin made of two different colours of metal. It replaced the old two dollar bill in the mid-nineties. It has a polar bear on it.

Quarter (25 cents)

Who Are On Canadian Money Of All Time
Photo World Atlas

The "Quarter" (so named because it's worth a quarter of a dollar) is a silver-coloured 25 cent piece. It depicts a caribou, one of Canada’s beloved antlered animals.

Dime (10 cents)

Who Are On Canadian Money Of All Time
Photo World Atlas

The "Dime" is the nickname of the 10 cent piece. It's the smallest coin by size, and quite thin. It has a famous Canadian sailboat on it, known as the Bluenose, that was the fastest racing ship in the world for almost 20 years.

Nickel (five cents)

Who Are On Canadian Money Of All Time
Photo World Atlas

The "Nickel" is what they call the 5 cent piece. It’s actually larger than the dime, which can be confusing. At one time, five cent pieces were made of nickel (hence the name), but today they're made of steel.

Penny (one cent)

The penny is made of copper-plated steel and features the maple leaf, a common symbol of Canada. In 2013, the Government of Canada officially stopped making pennies and is currently in the process of taking them all out of circulation, but completion of this goal is still many years away. Larger business and chains in Canada may not accept penny payments and instead demand customers round cash payments down or up to the closest five cents.

In summary, the Canadian dollar is one of the world's highest-value currencies. Images on Canadian notes and coins reflect long history and rich culture of the country. If you want to learn more about Canada’s history and culture, it’s a good suggestion to learn what and who on Canadian money.

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