As the government of Canada is expected to announce the new subject of the $5 bank note in the coming days, relatives of the finalists reflect on the roles their ancestors played in shaping the nation.
Francis Pegahmagabow, one of Canada’s most highly decorated Indigenous soldiers, known for his expert marksman skills during the First World War, is one of the finalists.
His great-grandson Brian McInnes remembers him as being much more.
“Things that we most remember him for are his calmness, his gentleness, his kindness and his ability to work with all peoples to find a better way forward,” said McInnes.
Among the eight finalists, four are influential Indigenous figures who have made unique contributions to Canadian society.
The list includes Frederick Ogilvie Loft, another First World War hero who also started one of Canada’s first national Indigenous political groups in 1918. Also shortlisted is Crowfoot, remembered for his leadership and peacekeeping efforts in the 19th century, and self-taught Inuit artist Pitseolak Ashoona, who is admired for her prolific body of artwork depicting Inuit culture.
“They really had that positive mindset that the gain for one is the gain for all,” said McInnes.
Inuk singer-songwriter Lucie Idlout sits on the advisory council that considers the finalists. Her grandfather Joseph Idlout was featured on the $2 bank note until it was discontinued in 1996.
“You know, two generations later, I still continue to experience the benefits of being his granddaughter,” said Idlout.
The Bank of Canada says it received more than 600 eligible names from nearly 45,000 Canadians, and an advisory committee shortlisted the names to eight people.
“You can definitely say it’s a first, said Amelie-Ferron Craig,” a spokesperson for the Bank of Canada.
Among the other nominees are Terry Fox, who captivated the nation during his Marathon of Hope in support of cancer research, and Won Alexander Cumyow, an advocate from Vancouver who worked to unite the city’s English-speaking and Chinese communities.
Canadian humanitarian Lotta Hitschmanova and Robertine Barry, one of the first women journalists in Quebec, are also on the shortlist.