Carney apologizes for offence over 'Asian' banknotes
The backside of a Canadian $100 banknote is seen in this undated handout image. The first version of Canada's new $100 banknotes featured the image of an Asian woman but she was quickly removed after focus groups complained.
Published Monday, August 20, 2012 10:23AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 20, 2012 6:21PM EDT
Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney issued an apology Monday, to anyone offended by the way the central bank handled the removal of an "Asian-looking" woman from the initial design of its latest-edition $100 bills.
In a statement, Carney indicated he was sorry for the way the change has been perceived by some.
"I apologize to those who were offended," Carney said, promising to review the design process in the future. "The Bank's handling of this issue did not meet the standards Canadians justifiably expect of us."
According to the statement, the new polymer $100 bill's design -- intended to evoke a theme of "Canadian medical innovation" -- was developed in consultation with focus groups.
The image in question started as "a photoshopped image based on an original photograph of a South Asian woman looking through a microscope," Carney explained.
The subsequent design, Carney continued, featured an original image based on that photograph, but was not intended to resemble a specific individual.
"In the development of our $100 bank note, efforts by the bank note designers to avoid depicting a specific individual resulted in an image that appears to represent only one ethnic group," he said.
"That was not the Bank's intention."
The central bank has come under fire since a Canadian Press report revealed that the image of an apparently Asian woman had been changed after some focus group participants complained.
"Some have concerns that the researcher appears to be Asian," according to the 2009 Strategic Counsel report commissioned by the bank and obtained by CP in an Access to Information request.
"Some believe that it presents a stereotype of Asians excelling in technology and/or the sciences. Others feel that an Asian should not be the only ethnicity represented on the banknotes. Other ethnicities should also be shown."
The image that was ultimately used on the reverse side of the new polymer bill design -- depicting a Caucasian-looking woman instead -- was described by a bank spokesperson as one of "neutral ethnicity."
A spokeswoman for the Chinese Canadian National Council demanded the bank change its policies.
"What's this 'apology' for?" asked May Lui, a spokesperson for the council’s Toronto chapter.
"For the appearance of the Asian looking individual on the draft note that circulated to focus groups? Or for the final image that appears on the note that we see today?"
Carney called Victor Wong, the council’s executive director, on Monday to discuss the incident. Wong was more positive about Carney’s apology.
"This is a win-win," Wong said, saying the council appreciated Monday's statement. "I had a brief and cordial telephone conversation with Governor Carney ... and CCNC has offered to give input into the Bank of Canada review process."
The bank did not indicate Monday whether it will allow diverse ethnic groups or visible minorities to appear on currency in the future.
"It's too early for us to give details on what that would entail," bank spokeswoman Dale Alexander said.
The bank has not made the original design by Jorge Peral of the Canadian Bank Note Co. public.
With files from The Associated Press