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B.C. author 'thrilled' historic Canadian woman will soon appear on bank notes

Not a single Canadian bill features the image of a woman from the country's history. Photo by The Canadian Press.

VANCOUVER — The portrait of an iconic Canadian woman is set to appear on a new series of bank notes, and a British Columbia historian says it's about time.

Merna Forster has been writing letters to politicians and Bank of Canada governors for years saying that it is unacceptable not to have a single bill featuring the image of a female figure from the country's history.

Her campaign includes an online petition launched in 2013, which has since collected more than 73,000 signatures, and an interactive website that allows people to suggest which woman they would like to see on a bank note.

The Queen is currently the only woman featured on Canadian currency and Forster says she was thrilled to hear the government announce that will change in 2018.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that the search is on to determine which historic woman should be featured on a new series of bank notes.

Forster, a Victoria-based author of two books on Canadian heroines, said she was in a state of disbelief.

"I must admit that I was getting discouraged, but I knew it was important and I couldn't give up," she said from Victoria.

Still, Forster never imagined the fight to memorialize Canadian women on the country's money would take this long.

"It's just not right," she said. "Women hold up half the sky. Why don't they hold up half the bank notes?"

Other countries, including Australia, Japan and Colombia, have long had famous females on the currency, she said.

The Bank of Canada is now asking the public to nominate women deserving of the recognition through the bank's website.

Each nominee must be a Canadian woman who demonstrated outstanding leadership, achievement or distinction in any field, benefiting the people of Canada, or in the service of Canada.

They cannot be fictional, and must have been dead for at least 25 years.

Picking a single woman will be the hardest part, Forster said. Over the years, she has received more than 400 suggestions, including everyone from suffragette Nellie McClung to singer Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Personally, Forster doesn't know who she'd choose, but she said she's hoping to see someone who represents Canada's diversity.

Gemma Karstens-Smith

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