Canadian woman to be added to new currency: Trudeau

Click to play video: 'Trudeau announces new bill will feature renown Canadian woman'
Trudeau announces new bill will feature renown Canadian woman
WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the surprise announcement that women will be featured on new Canadian currency during an International Women's Day event – Mar 8, 2016

A Canadian woman will soon be featured on a new bank note.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement in Ottawa on Tuesday, along with Finance Minister Bill Morneau, on International Women’s Day.

The Bank of Canada has launched a public consultation to decide which “iconic” Canadian woman will be featured on the new note, which will be issued in 2018.

POLL: Which Canadian woman should grace the new bank note?

Trudeau also unveiled a new stamp and a new coin celebrating a woman’s right to vote.

WATCH: Liberals discuss highlighting Canadian women on ‘big bank notes’

Click to play video: 'Liberals discuss highlighting Canadian women on ‘big bank notes’'
Liberals discuss highlighting Canadian women on ‘big bank notes’

“In this country we can be immensely proud of a long line of strong women who have stepped up time and time again to make history against all odds,” Trudeau said at the news conference.

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“But, make no mistake, the job isn’t done yet. Our outsanding country still has room to improve and there is progress to be made.”

He then listed pay equity, access to childcare and chronic prevalence of violence against women as some of the issues which need to be improved.

The public is welcome to nominate any woman who meets select criteria, according to a press release from the Bank of Canada. The women must:

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  • be Canadian, “by birth or naturalization,”
  • have demonstrated outstanding leadership, achievement or distinction in any field that has benefited the people of Canada, or in the service of Canada,
  • not be fictional,
  • and be historical – she must have been deceased for at least 25 years.

Nominations are open until April 15, 2016 on the Bank of Canada’s website. On Twitter, the bank said Nellie McClung was the first woman nominated shortly after Trudeau made the announcement.

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The idea to put another woman on Canadian currency other than the Queen has been around for a while. It first made headlines when the new polymer bank notes began circulating in 2011. That’s when the Famous 5 (the five petitioners who sought to have women recognized as persons under the law,) and groundbreaking politician Thérèse Casgrain were unceremoniously replaced on the $50 bill by a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker.

The back of the former $50 bill featuring prominent women from Canadian history. Source: Bank of Canada

At the moment, Canadian bank notes feature former prime ministers Wilfrid Laurier, John A. Macdonald, William Lyon Mackenzie King and Robert Borden. Queen Elizabeth II, whose likeness appears on $20 bills, is the sole female member of the exclusive currency club.

WATCH: Trudeau unveils stamp and coin dedicated to Women’s Day 
Click to play video: 'Trudeau unveils stamp and coin dedicated to Women’s Day'
Trudeau unveils stamp and coin dedicated to Women’s Day

‘Hard to believe’ it’s actually happening: advocate

Merna Forster is excited about the news: she has spent years trying to get a woman other than Queen Elizabeth on Canada’s money.

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A petition she started in July, 2013 calling on the government to “add women from Canadian history to Canadian bank notes” has more than 73,000 signatures.

Forster is “excited,” she said, “but finding it hard to believe.”

“The Bank of Canada has had frequent correspondence with me over the years,” she told Global News. “I think they have taken my campaign to heart, and I feel like [the petition] played quite a big role in bringing things to this stage.”

But there’s still more work to do, she said.

“In some countries, like Sweden and Australia, they actually have … gender equality on the bills so this is a very good step forward,” she said.

She also said many people who signed her petition pointed out the lack of racial diversity on our money, which currently only features white men, and the Queen.

Forster, who has written 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces and 100 More Canadian Heroines,  said the bank has asked her to play a role in the public consultations. But the hardest part will be picking which woman will get to be on the bill.

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“There’s just so many to choose from. It will be a challenging task.”

With files from Global’s Monique Muise.

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