In focus groups conducted in Toronto, Montreal, Fredericton and Calgary, Torontonians were perfectly at ease with an image of an 'Asian-looking' woman gracing the reverse side of a newly proposed $100 bill. The same could not be said for the other cities.
The image under scrutiny was a profile shot of a woman peering into a microscope. The yellow-brown colour of the banknote added to the focus group members' perceptions that the woman was Asian.
In response to their criticism, the Bank of Canada immediately removed the woman's image and replaced it with someone with a more 'neutral ethnicity' (i.e., with more Caucasian features).
Here are some quotes from The Toronto Star
and this writer's thoughts:
“Some have concerns that the researcher appears to be Asian,” says a 2009 report commissioned by the bank from The Strategic Counsel, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
“Some believe that it presents a stereotype of Asians excelling in technology and/or the sciences.”
Interestingly, many Asian Canadians I know don't really mind or care if they are stereotyped as good in science and technology.
The Toronto groups were positive about the image of an Asian woman because “it is seen to represent diversity or multiculturalism.”
Of course they were, because Toronto is fabulous and many of its residents are not just tolerant, they are welcoming. There is a reason why so many ethnic groups love Toronto.
In Quebec, however, “the inclusion of an Asian ... was seen to be contentious.”
Ah, good old Quebec. I'm sure Coalition party leader Francois Legault's recent comments
about Asian teens excelling in school is a contentious issue there too.
One person in Fredericton commented: “The person on it appears to be of Asian descent which doesn’t rep(resent) Canada. It is fairly ugly.”
Hopefully this comment doesn't represent how most people in Fredericton think. It does, however, bring up a point that some Asian Canadians feel they will never be truly considered 'Canadian,' despite all the contributions they have made to society.
“The original image was not designed or intended to be a person of a particular ethnic origin,” bank spokesman Jeremy Harrison said in an interview, citing policy that eschews depictions of ethnic groups on banknotes.
The policy makes me wonder how any graphic designer is supposed to really avoid depicting ethnic groups. Isn't 'Caucasian' also considered an ethnic group or conglomeration of ethnic groups? How is a designer supposed to draw a person that has no ethnicity?
Canadians and Asian groups across Canada have expressed their disappointment about the decision and are asking the Bank of Canada to revisit its policies on how ethnicities are depicted.