Friday, 3 March 2017

Is the Canadian Mint still in 1916?

Is the Canadian Mint still in 1916?

I am disappointed by the lack of representation of diversity on the new National Heroes series of coins, particularly when it comes to soldiers, firefighters and police officers.  These remain non-traditional fields for women, visible minorities, and Indigenous Peoples and I believe the Canadian Mint missed this opportunity to challenge the common perception of what these heroes look like.

Yes, there is one female first responder.  One out of five. And all appear to be white. Perhaps the firefighter could be interpreted as being female, but for young girls and visible minorities holding these precious coins in their hands, they will understand that Canadian heroes are white men.

To quote our Prime Minister, “It’s 2016.” Is it 1916 at the Mint?  I wrote to the Minister of Finance Bill Morneau in May, 2016. He suggested that I write directly to the Canadian Mint, which I did.  Here is their response:

Dear Major:
While we are very pleased with the customer response to these coins celebrating the men and women who dedicate their lives to the safety of our communities, we realize that we could have also used this opportunity to better represent the women and visible minorities who distinguish themselves as Canadian first responders.

The Mint is committed to representing Canada and Canadians on our collector coins and going forward, this will include better representing Canada's diversity on coins.
Shawn Henderson
Director, Product Development

The Mint's answer is a start, but their commitment will most likely be shortlived for two reasons:  

First, the problem with the design of these coins is systemic. The layers of approval for these images must have been numerous, yet no one flagged the very obvious lack of diversity representation.  Thus, I have to assume that the culture at the Mint is sadly reflective of the image our Canadian society sees as firefighters, soldiers, police officers: They are white men.  Nurses are women. 

Second, even though the Canadian Mint has committed to representing diversity on their coins in the future, the Minister of Finance, nor the CEO of the Mint, Sandra Hanington, have taken responsibility for this blunder. As personnel changes, as people get rotated in and out of positions, this commitment will wither away or get lost in all the other launches of their coins, enveloped by the strong culture which blatantly ignored the lack of representation in the first place.  

It is no wonder that our Canadian Armed Forces has trouble recruiting women.  Young girls are perpetually given powerful signals that warriors, and Canadian Heroes, are men. Why would they even consider a career as a soldier?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Sandra! (For all your life's work) I was one of the first female combat women in the navy and we really need to change the narrative that young girls see. I am going to start speaking in schools; supportive of women who may want to be stay at home moms and warrior women equally. I want to write a memoir as one of the first women to serve on the front lines in war. I hope you might consider writing a short paragraph/forward after you have met me or seen my work. 100% agree with everything I've ever seen you write about!


    Sylvia Vickers