OTTAWA - Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney apologized Monday for the way the image of an Asian woman was removed from the initial design for new $100 banknotes, promising to review the bank's internal processes.

"I apologize to those who were offended — the Bank's handling of the issue did not meet the standards Canadians justifiably expect of us," Carney said in a statement.

"Our banknotes belong to all Canadians, and the work we do at the bank is for all Canadians."

The Canadian Press reported last week that the image of an Asian woman was purged from the original design after some focus groups in October 2009 raised questions about her ethnicity.

Some of the participants said the Asian woman did not represent Canada; some said other ethnic groups should be shown as well, says a report obtained under the Access to Information Act.

The small groups were based in Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Fredericton, and were queried for the bank by The Strategic Counsel in a $53,000 contract.

By the end of 2009, an image of a Caucasian-looking woman was substituted in a move bank spokesman Jeremy Harrison said was to restore "neutral ethnicity." The original design never went into circulation.

Spokespersons for the Chinese Canadian National Council called the move "racist," and demanded the bank change its policies to stop "erasing" visible minorities from Canada's money.

On Monday, Carney called Victor Wong, the council's executive director, to discuss the apology.

"This is a win-win," Wong said, noting that 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."

Carney did not clarify whether the central bank intends to change its policies to allow so-called ethnic groups or visible minorities to appear on Canada's currency.

"It's too early for us to give details on what that would entail," said bank spokeswoman Dale Alexander.

Not everyone was satisfied with Carney's response, however.

"What's this 'apology' for?" asked May Lui, speaking for CCNC'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 acknowledged that an early design for the new $100 polymer banknote, which began circulating last November, was a "'Photoshopped' image based on an original photograph of a South Asian woman looking through a microscope."

"South Asian" normally refers to people from India, Pakistan and neighbouring countries, while "Asian" refers to China and other countries in that region. It was unclear why the focus groups referred to an Asian when Carney claimed the photo was of a South Asian.

The bank said while that image was shown to eight focus groups in 2009, designers were already altering it electronically to ensure it did not resemble an actual person — suggesting the focus-group input had no bearing on the decision.

"The purpose of the focus group was for the basic conceptual model — the actual design of the note had not yet happened," said Alexander.

The bank has declined to say what specific changes it made to the image. Critics have said the Caucasian-looking woman does not have "neutral ethnicity," as the bank claims, but merely represents the dominant group in Canada.

A bank spokeswoman again refused a request by The Canadian Press for a copy of the original image, saying the bank does not release rejected designs.

Internal documents obtained by The Canadian Press show that the theme of medical innovations, partly illustrated by the woman researcher looking into a microscope, was originally to have appeared on the new $5 polymer banknote rather than the $100 bill. The reason for the switch was removed from the heavily redacted material.

A January 2010 bank briefing for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who must sign off on the final design for any new currency, said the October 2009 focus groups provided "overall positive responses to designs. (They) offered minor comments related to specific design elements." There was no reference to the Asian comments.

A marketing professor of Asian heritage, Ken Wong of Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., said Carney had no choice but to apologize given the public outcry.

"The person on the bill is a Canadian regardless of ethnicity; it (the image) should never have been changed," Wong said. "If Carney needs to apologize for anything, it is for being overly sensitive to political correctness run amok."

Wong said the bank should leave images of people off all bills, except for historic figures such as prime ministers.

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  • Bank of Montreal Dollar - 1825

    Until the mid-19th century, Canada's future provinces used the "Canadian pound." Bit by bit, various jurisdictions began to switch to a metric system, and with it came the concept of the Canadian dollar. This Bank of Montreal-issued dollar bill is among the first bills called a dollar to have been printed.

  • Bank of Montreal Dollar - 1859

    Various banks printed their own currency until eventually the Bank of Montreal was charged with being the official issuer of the Canadian dollar, a practice that stayed in place until the Bank of Canada was created in the 1930s.

  • Bank of Toronto Dollar - 1859

    The Bank of Toronto (today known as TD Bank) was among many banks that issued Canadian dollars in the second half of the 19th century.

  • Ontario Bank Dollar - 1861

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Province of Canada Dollar - 1866

    The province of Canada comprised Ontario and Quebec and existed from 1841 to 1867. It issued its own currency. Image courtesy of Bank of Canada.

  • Dominion of Canada Dollar - 1870

    With confederation in 1867, the first truly national Canadian dollar came into being. Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Dominion of Canada Dollar - 1898

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Dominion of Canada Dollar - 1911

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Dominion of Canada Dollar - 1917

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Dominion of Canada Dollar - 1923

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Bank of Canada Dollar - 1935

    The Bank of Canada took over the issuance of currency from the Bank of Montreal when it was created in the 1930s. Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Bank of Canada Dollar - 1937

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Canada Dollar - 1954

    The 1954 dollar was the first to feature Queen Elizabeth II and the first to simply say "Canada" on it, rather than featuring the name of a bank, province or referring to the country as a "dominion."

  • Centennial Dollar - 1967

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Canada Dollar - 1973

    This was the last paper dollar issued in Canada. It was in circulation until 1987, when the loonie replaced it. Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • The Loonie - 1987

    The loonie replaced the one-dollar bill in Canada in 1987. Image: CP

  • Canada 125 Loonie - 1992

    The Mint issued a special edition of the loonie in 1992 to commemorate the country's 125th birthday.

  • Vancouver Olympics Loonie - 2010

    An Inuit inukshuk graced the tail of this loonie issued in 2010 to coincide with the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

  • The Loonie - Anniversary Special - 2012

    The Royal Canadian Mint issued a special-edition version of the loonie in 2012 to commemorate the coin's 25th anniversary. Image: Royal Canadian Mint.


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  • The New $5 Bill

    Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bankofcanada/8693039417/sizes/c/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Bank Of Canada, Flickr</a>

  • The New $5 Bill

    From <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bankofcanada/8694157272/in/photostream" target="_blank">Bank Of Canada, Flickr</a>: "Robotics innovation is Canada’s ongoing contribution to the international space program and demonstrates our commitment to space exploration. The Canadian-built Mobile Servicing System is the sophisticated robotics suite that helped to assemble the International Space Station in orbit. This system consists of Canadarm2, Dextre and the Mobile Base. On board the space station—a permanent orbiting research laboratory—international partners conduct scientific experiments, many of which result in an enhanced quality of life on earth. Canada’s contribution to the space program evokes pride and sparks the imagination and curiosity of our future leaders in science and technology."

  • The New $10 Bill

    Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bankofcanada/8693039429/sizes/c/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Bank Of Canada, Flickr</a>

  • The New $10 Bill

    From <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bankofcanada/8693039423/in/photostream" target="_blank">Bank Of Canada, Flickr</a>: "The expansion of the railway in the 1880s was hailed as a remarkable feat of engineering for a young country with a varied and often treacherous terrain. At the time, the railway was the longest ever built, and its completion demonstrated Canada’s pioneering spirit by linking our eastern and western frontiers, connecting people, and facilitating the exchange of goods. Today, The Canadian train, winding its way through the Rockies showcases Canada’s natural beauty and symbolizes what we accomplished as a young nation."

  • The New $5 And $10 Bills

    Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney unveils the new polymer $5 and $10 bank notes during a press conference at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

  • The New $5 And $10 Bills

    Finance Minister Jim Flaherty unveils the new polymer $5 and $10 bank notes during a press conference at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

  • The New $10 Bill

    A new polymer $10 bank note is displayed during a press conference at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

  • Astronaut Chris Hadfield Displays The New $5 Bill

    Astronaut Chris Hadfield poses for a photo with a new polymer $5 bank note on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

  • The New $20 Bill

    Hand holding up the new polymer Canadian $20.00 bill.

  • The New $20 Bill

    Some new polymer twenty dollar bills, which is the most widely used bank note in the country, are pictured at Montreal on November 19, 2012.

  • The New $20 Bill

    The Bank of Canada introduced the plastic see-through $20 bill on May 2, 2012.

  • The New $50 Bill

    Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney holds a new $50 bill while standing in front of the Canadian Coast guard ship Amundsen Monday, March 26, 2012 in Quebec City. The Amundsen is displayed on the back of the new bank note made of polymer.

  • The New $100 Bill

    Bank of Canada Mark Carney shows off the bank's new circulating $100 bill, Canada's first polymer bank note, in Toronto on Monday Nov. 14, 2011.

  • The New $100 Bill

    The $100 bill was the first of Canada's paper denominations to go plastic and see-through.

  • Australia's polymer note

    An Australian 100 dollar polymer note is displayed above various international currencies. AFP PHOTO / Torsten BLACKWOOD

  • Australia's polymer note

    AFP PHOTO / Torsten BLACKWOOD

  • Mexico's polymer note

    A Mexican pesos note made out of polymer material. Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images

  • Mexico's polymer note

    Mexico City, MEXICO: A sample of the new 50 Mexican pesos' note made out of polymer material to hinder its forgery, 14 November, 2004 in Mexico City. AFP PHOTO/Alfredo ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Next: Twitter Jokes About New Bills

  • Andrew Coyne

    Even that would be better. @InklessPW: Wells designs new bills. What'll we put on the 5? Oscar Peterson. The 10? Peterson. 20? Glenn Gould

  • Cory S.

    Wait so there's no more quote from the Hockey Sweater on the new $5 bills? #manifencours

  • Tabatha Southey

    New bills should be 5 pin bowling for the $5, a Robertson screwdriver for the $10, a Canadian flag, draped over a picnic bench on the backs.

  • LauraBeaulneStuebing

    Theory about the new $5 and $10 bills: They're ugly enough that we don't want to keep them in our wallets.

  • Paul Wells

    Paul Wells designs the new bills. "What'll we put on the 5?" "Oscar Peterson." "And on the 10?" "Oscar Peterson." "20?" "Glenn Gould."

  • Wesley Fok

    Was expecting the new $5/$10 bills to literally have pictures of poop on them, based on the outcry. Surprise: they look like money!

  • Patrick Meehan

    Q: You're the federal government, what do you put on the new 5$ and 10$ bills? A: Things you've cut funding to. http://t.co/jqT3BLmENc

  • Jason Rehel

    Everyone is pretty damn hung up on the AESTHETICS of the new $5 and $10 bills in Canada. Me? I'd like money that WORKS in vending machines

  • Brittlestar

    @Cmdr_Hadfield Dude, with all the stuff you’ve had up there (guitars, Easter eggs, new $5 bills), how BIG was your suitcase?