Canada 150: A History Lesson in Your Pocket

By Bank of Canada

The Canada 150 commemorative bank note was issued by the Bank of Canada this year to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Most sesquicentennial events took place over the summer, but there is still time left in 2017 to reflect on this milestone for our country. With students now settled back in their classrooms, this is a perfect opportunity to talk about Canadian history, using the Canada 150 $10 bill as a reference.

The Canada 150 bank note features portraits of four parliamentarians who played significant roles in Canada’s history. Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Étienne Cartier were two Fathers of Confederation and Macdonald was also Canada’s first prime minister. Agnes Macphail was the first woman elected to the House of Commons, and James Gladstone – or Akay-na-muka (his Blackfoot name) – was the first senator of First Nations origin.

The four portraits appear with an image of the Hall of Honour in the background. This central corridor of the Centre Block on Parliament Hill lies between the House of Commons and the Senate Chamber. The Centre Block is where national issues are examined and where parliamentarians – like Macdonald, Cartier, Macphail and Gladstone – introduce legislation, debate it and pass it into law.

The Canada 150 note also depicts the Memorial Chamber Arch located in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. This chamber was dedicated in 1927 to all Canadians who died in military service during the First World War. It has since come to honour all Canadian men and women who gave their lives in service to their country.

The note includes elements to represent Canada’s Indigenous peoples as well. In addition to the portrait of James Gladstone, a member of the Kainai First Nation, the note features an image of Owl’s Bouquet, a stone-cut and stencil print by acclaimed Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak, and a representation of the Assomption sash, or arrow sash, an important cultural symbol of the Métis people. The sash has significance in the French-Canadian culture too. Worn by early French settlers, the sash became a hallmark of the voyageurs and fur traders in the 18th century.


At the time of Confederation in 1867, Canada consisted of only four provinces; since then it has grown to include ten provinces and three territories. The names of all of Canada’s provinces and territories and the dates when they entered Confederation appear in English and French across the top and bottom of the large window on the bank note, in small metallic text.
Landscapes from five regions of Canada (the West Coast, the Prairie provinces, Central Canada, the Atlantic provinces and the North) are depicted on the back of the note.

Several Canadian symbols also grace the note. They include the Canadian flag, proclaimed as such in February 1965, and the coat of arms, which contains the motto of the Dominion of Canada – A Mari Usque Ad Mare – meaning “From Sea to Sea.” Lastly, the Canada 150 logo, the official Government of Canada logo to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, appears on the note.

The Canada 150 note is quite special, as it’s only the fourth commemorative bank note issued by the Bank of Canada in its 82-year history. It began circulating on June 1st. In all, 40 million commemorative notes will be distributed through Canada’s financial institutions in 2017. To get one, simply visit your local bank or credit union.
Visit www.bankofcanada.ca/banknote150 to learn more about the design and security features of the Canada 150 note. Follow the Bank on Twitter (@bankofcanada) for the latest news about this special note marking the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

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