"On behalf of the bank and personally, I apologize for the offence created by that sequence of events," Carney said Wednesday at a news conference.
"That's not the standard that Canadians expect of the bank and steps have to be taken to ensure that there's not a repetition."
The bank came under fire from Chinese-Canadian groups and others after The Canadian Press revealed an image of a Caucasian-looking woman was substituted for that of an Asian woman in early draft designs of the new polymer banknote.
The bank made the move after some people in focus groups raised questions — and objections — about the appearance of an Asian on Canada's money.
Carney suggested it's too late to revise the currency now, with some 150 million notes already in circulation since the new polymer $100 bills were introduced last November. But he noted that planning for the next set of redesigned banknotes starts in 2014.
"We have a good, proper window between now and then to do a proper review process of how we capture the diversity of this country in the design and distribution of banknotes," he said.
The bank will consult with a broad range of Canadian stakeholders and review how other countries depict diversity on their currencies, he said.
Carney's statement Wednesday appears to reverse the bank's policy of eschewing depictions of "ethnic" groups on Canada's currency.
A spokesman said last week that the bank seeks "neutral ethnicity" on its banknotes, but critics have said the image of a Caucasian woman was not neutral but merely the substitution of Canada's dominant group.
Spokespersons for the Chinese Canadian National Council called the decision to remove the Asian features "racist" and an attempt to erase a visible minority from Canadian culture and history.
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