Whose Face on the Five? Terry Fox a run-away choice for new five-dollar banknote

Whose Face on the Five? Terry Fox a run-away choice for new five-dollar banknote

Two-thirds support replacing Wilfrid Laurier as current face of the currency

November 25, 2020 – Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s 7th Prime Minister, has graced the nation’s sky blue five-dollar bank note for almost 50 years.

First appearing in 1972, the days of Laurier (also the namesake of a Coast Guard icebreaker, Wilfrid Laurier University, and numerous other schools, streets, and places) as the “face of the fiver” are coming to an end. An independent federal advisory council has released its shortlist of the eight nominees to replace him sometime in the next few years. The latest study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds that among the eight candidates, Terry Fox is named more than all others as the preferred new face, chosen by 57 per cent of Canadians.

While Fox is the top option in every region of the country, he is by no means a unanimous choice. Famed Indigenous soldier Binaaswi (Francis Pegahmagabow) is chosen by one-in-five (21%), including one-quarter of residents in Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada. Crowfoot (Isapo-muxika), an integral part of Treaty 7 negotiations in Alberta, is chosen by one-in-five (19%) as well.

While Canadians across the country have their own preferences, there is also majority agreement on the change itself. More than three-in-five overall, and a majority in each region of the country, say it is a good idea to change the face of the five. But a significant segment, 37 per cent (including 57 per cent of past Conservative voters), disagree.

More Key Findings:

  • Residents in Quebec (34%) and young women across the country (27%) show considerable support for Robertine Barry, the first French-Canadian journalist and an advocate for women’s rights, as a candidate.
  • Past Conservative voters are much more likely to prefer Terry Fox as their choice (three-quarters do so), while those who support other parties like candidates other than him.


About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.



Part One: How popular is the idea of changing the $5 bill?

Part Two: Who should be featured?

  • Terry Fox top choice in every region

  • Young women voice support for Robertine Barry

  • Non-Conservative views more diverse

Part One: How popular is the idea of changing the $5 bill?

Previous iterations of the $5 banknotes, along with the present one, have featured Sir Wilfrid Laurier since December 1972. The current design was released in November 2013. On January 29, 2020 the Bank of Canada announced it would launch a public consultation to “select an iconic Canadian” to appear on the bill’s next version.

Fortunately for the Bank of Canada, the decision to redesign the $5 denomination and replace the image of Laurier with someone else is fairly popular. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Canadians are open to the idea of seeing someone new on their blue polymer bills:

Majorities in all regions of Canada are in favour of changing the $5 bill, though to varying extents from place to place. Three-quarters of those in Atlantic Canada support the redesign, a proportion nearly 20 points higher than in Alberta (56%) and Saskatchewan (57%). Those two provinces are joined by British Columbia and Quebec in offering muted enthusiasm for the change, while those Manitoba and Ontario offer levels closer to those of Atlantic Canadians:

Political affiliation brings out sharper differences. Those who voted for the Conservative Party in the last federal election are more likely to oppose a redesign than support it. Conversely, past NDP and Liberal voters heavily favour a change, with three-quarters or more saying they support a new face on the bill:

Part Two: Who should be featured?

The Bank of Canada announced on November 9 that an independent advisory council, based on public input, made a short list of eight candidates who might be featured on the new bill. The council weighed five criteria alongside public input to generate the final list of nominees:

  • Positive change: Nominees should have changed Canada and Canadians for the better
  • National icon: Their impact is known nationally across Canada
  • Universality: They have had an impact in Canada and this impact should reflect Canadian values
  • Uniqueness: They are uniquely Canadian and known beyond their local/regional communities
  • Relevancy: They had an impact that is relevant today

Here is a brief overview of the eight candidates:

Pitseolak Ashoona – A self-taught Inuit artist known worldwide for depictions of traditional Inuit life in the Eastern Arctic. Her drawings and prints are in museums across Canada.

Robertine Barry (“Françoise”) – She was the first female French-Canadian journalist, and an advocate for social justice causes, especially women’s suffrage and equality.

Binaaswi (Francis Pegahmagabow) – A First World War veteran, the most highly decorated Indigenous soldier in Canadian history. He worked with advocacy movements to advance Indigenous rights in Canada.

Won Alexander Cumyow – The first known Chinese Canadian born in Canada. He used his language skills to bridge the divide between Vancouver’s English-speaking and Chinese communities.

Terry Fox – After losing his leg to cancer, he began a run across Canada to raise awareness for cancer research. More than $800m has been raised in his name to date.

Lotta Hitschmanova – Founder of one of Canada’s first international development agencies. Devoted her life to helping people in need around the world.

Isapo-muxika (Crowfoot) – A leader of the Blackfoot Confederacy, known for his effective advocacy for peace between First Nations and settlers.

Onondeyoh (Frederick Ogilvie Loft) – Mohawk chief, First World War veteran. He founded the first pan-Canadian Indigenous organization in 1918 to advocate for Indigenous rights.

Terry Fox top choice in every region

The Angus Reid Institute showed these photos and brief biographies to respondents and asked which one or two of these candidates they would like to see on the new $5 bill. One stands out as by far the most popular choice: Terry Fox. Nearly three-in-five (57%) say he should be on the new banknote, almost triple the level of support for the second most popular candidate, Binaaswi – the most highly decorated Indigenous soldier in Canadian history.

Ultimately, Canada’s Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland will make the choice as to who will grace the next five-dollar bill, and all candidates have an important place in Canadian history. That said, the popularity of Terry Fox may not come as a surprise.

A few years after cancer took his leg, Fox decided to run a “Marathon of Hope” across the country to raise money for cancer research. He started in Newfoundland and Labrador, running a full marathon every single day on a prosthetic leg. His fame had spread across the country by the time he was in Ontario, where the run had to be stopped (outside Thunder Bay) because the cancer spread to his lungs.

Now, Terry Fox is a household name. with numerous streets, schools, and buildings named after him. Children in Canada grow up taking part in “Terry Fox Runs” to raise funds for cancer research. He was named a member of the Order of Canada, the youngest person to earn this distinction. His incredible 5,373 kilometre journey inspired the aforementioned yearly fundraising run, which is the largest one-day cancer research fundraiser in the world. Millions of people participate in more than 60 countries.

Terry Fox is the majority choice across all the regions of Canada other than Quebec. In that province, while Fox remains the top choice, one-in-three residents choose Robertine Barry, the first female French-Canadian journalist and a passionate advocate for social justice and women’s suffrage. Quebec residents are also more likely than others to choose Lotta Hitschmanova, who founded one of Canada’s first international development organizations.

Francis Pegahmagabow, known in Ojibwe as Binaaswi, is the second preference for most of the country, garnering the support of one-in-five Canadians overall (21%), and one-quarter in Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada. Binaaswi was the most decorated Indigenous soldier in Canadian history, serving in the First World War, and taking part in some of the most famous battles in military history at both the Somme and Passchendaele.

Isapo-muxika, commonly known as Crowfoot, receives similar support, from approximately one-in-five Canadians (19%). Crowfoot was a Sikiska Chief who was trusted to negotiate with the federal government for First Nation’s rights during the mid 1870’s. He, alongside other members of the Kainai, Piikani, Stoney-Nakoda, and Tsuut’ina First Nations, negotiated and signed Treaty 7.

Young women voice support for Robertine Barry

Terry Fox is a consistent favourite across demographic groups. He is favoured by two-thirds of men 35 and older, and only drops below a majority among young women, though he is still their first choice. The aforementioned Robertine Barry, a female trailblazer and icon, resonates more with women than men and particularly with young women, for whom she is the clear second choice.

Non-Conservative views more diverse

Looking at political affiliation, past Conservative voters are fondest of Terry Fox, with three-quarters of them (74%) preferring to see him on the $5 banknote. This represents a 17-point rise above the overall average. Liberal preferences mirror the overall picture, while past NDP voters are much more likely than others to feel Inuk artist Pitseolak Ashoona would be an ideal choice.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodologyclick here.

To read the questionnaire, click here.

Image – Caribb/Flickr


Shachi Kurl, President: 604.908.1693 shachi.kurl@angusreid.org @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821 dave.korzinski@angusreid.org

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