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What’s that thing on the back of my twenty? – A look at art and culture on Canadian currency

I recently returned from a 14 month trip around Australia and S.E. Asia. Both regions have an abundance of rich cultural heritage, evident in their art. Trudging through the Vancouver Airport I noticed a piece of our own cultural heritage, a large greenish sculpture I recognized as a Haida piece. I knew I’d seen it before but I couldn’t quite place where. Later, when buying my first Double-Double since 2010 I saw it staring up at me from the back of a $20 bill.

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii by Bill Reid, commissioned in 1985 for the Canadian Embassy in Washington.  Cast in bronze, the original black version was recast in a jade patina for the Vancouver Airport.

That got me thinking. What other bits of Canadiana are on my money, and where are they from?

The Coins

The variety of indigenous species on our coins can be seen across the country, with the exception of the Polar Bear adorning our Toonies who only shows his white mug in the coldest of climates. Churchill, Manitoba or the Territories would be a great place to visit him.

Growing up in Atlantic Canada, I’d always identified with the face of our dimes. The  Bluenose II, hailing from Lunenburg NS is currently undergoing restorations but will be back in the water and offering cruises next year.

The Bills

The Five Dollar Bill depicts the west Block of Parliament in Ottawa. On the reverse, children are tobogganing, skating and playing hockey. You can see that anywhere in Canada from around November to March. One player, interestingly, is sporting number 9. Though many greats, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and others wore that number, it is largely accepted as a tribute to Maurice Richard. An excerpt from Roch Carrier’s “The Sweater” on the bottom left of the note supports that theory. The Hockey Hall of Fame is in downtown Toronto.

The Ten note features an excerpt of “In Flanders Fields”. A salute to veterans and peace keeping it features a photo of war veteran Robert Metcalfe standing at the National War Memorial. The Memorial stands at Confederation Square, Ottawa.

The Twenty we’ve covered but if you ever get an old one you’ll see Moraine Lake on the reverse. You can visit Moraine Lake in Alberta, not far from Lake Louise.

Our Fifty Dollar note depicts the Peace Tower at Parliament Hill. A tribute to human rights on the reverse depicts the Famous Five, a statue of whom can be viewed in downtown Calgary near Olympic Plaza.

The One Hundred Dollar Bill depicts the Eastern Block of Parliament on the front, while the reverse is a dedication to Canadian Exploration. One of Samuel Champlain’s maps and one of his canoes is depicted on the back. A statue of Champlain stands in Quebec City near Chateau Frontenac hotel.

So there you have it, now you have no excuse not to get out there and visit all that heritage! Did we miss anything? Let us know!

Image via gertys

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