Why is the Queen on Canadian Money? Exploring the History and Significance

Did you ever wonder why the Queen is on Canadian money? It’s a question that’s often posed by curious Canadians and visitors alike. While some chalk it up to tradition, others wonder if there’s something more behind the choice. After all, the Queen is a British symbol, so why is she on the currency of a country that is so far removed from the UK?

To get to the bottom of the mystery, we need to delve into Canada’s history. It turns out that the Queen’s image has been featured on Canadian coins and banknotes for over 150 years. The tradition dates back to 1841, when Queen Victoria’s portrait was used on Canadian banknotes. Since then, every monarch to reign during Canada’s history has had their image featured on currency. The current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has been on Canadian banknotes since 1953.

While some may argue that the Queen’s image on Canadian money is an outdated practice, it still holds a significant cultural and historical significance. Many Canadians see the Queen as a unifying figurehead that symbolizes the country’s connection to the UK. Queen Elizabeth II has also played a significant role in Canadian history, having visited the country over twenty times during her reign. Whether you agree with it or not, the Queen’s image on Canadian currency is a unique aspect of our country’s identity.

History of Canadian Currency

Canada has a long and storied history when it comes to currency. The earliest form of currency used by Indigenous peoples was the wampum, which consisted of beads made from seashells. When Europeans started to colonize Canada, they brought with them their own currencies, including French livres, Spanish dollars, and English pounds. To standardize the currency, the provincial governments started to issue paper notes in the 1800s.

  • The first Canadian banknotes were issued in 1821 by the Bank of Montreal. Other banks followed suit and started to issue their own banknotes, which led to confusion and counterfeiting.
  • In 1858, the government passed the Bank Act which established a national banking system and a single currency for all of Canada.
  • In 1870, the Dominion of Canada was established, and with it came the creation of a national currency. This currency was backed by gold, which gave it a level of stability.

Over the years, the designs of Canadian banknotes and coins have changed to reflect the country’s history, culture, and values. In 1935, the Bank of Canada was established as the country’s central bank, which is responsible for the design and issuance of Canadian money. The modern Canadian dollar is made up of coins (nickel, dime, quarter, loonie, and toonie) and banknotes (5, 10, 20, 50, and 100-dollar bills).

Today, Canadian money is recognized for its durability, security features, and unique designs. The queen on Canadian money is a reflection of the country’s ties to the British monarchy and its history as a British colony.

Year Significant Event
1935 The Bank of Canada is established
1954 The portrait of Queen Elizabeth II is first featured on Canadian banknotes
1986 The loonie (one-dollar coin) is introduced as a replacement for the one-dollar bill
1996 The toonie (two-dollar coin) is introduced

The history of Canadian currency is a reflection of the country’s evolution from a collection of British colonies to a modern, independent nation. The queen on Canadian money serves as a reminder of the country’s history and its ties to the British monarchy. Today, Canadian money is recognized for its unique designs, durability, and security features.

Significance of Portraits on Banknotes

Banknotes play an important role in a country’s economy, facilitating a wide range of transactions in daily life. To make banknotes representative of the country, portraits of significant figures are often displayed on them. In Canada, the Queen is a prominent figure that appears on all denominations of banknotes. Here’s why:

  • The Queen’s portrait signifies Canada’s relationship with the British monarchy. Canada is a constitutional monarchy and the Queen is the head of state. The use of her portrait on banknotes is a reminder of Canada’s constitutional ties with the British Crown.
  • The Queen’s portrait has been on Canadian currency for over fifty years. The first time her image was used was in 1954 on the $20 bill. Her portrait has become a well-known symbol of Canadian currency, representing the country’s stability and heritage.
  • The Queen’s image on Canadian banknotes reflects the country’s multiculturalism. She is the Queen of Canada, a country with a diverse population that recognizes and celebrates its history, traditions, and identity.

Beyond the significance of the Queen’s portrait, there is a wider meaning behind the use of any portrait on banknotes. Here are some additional points:

  • Portraits on banknotes can signify the person’s significant role in the country’s history or society. For example, the United States ten-dollar bill features Alexander Hamilton, who was the country’s first treasury secretary.
  • Portraits on banknotes can inspire national pride and loyalty. They can encourage people to take an interest in their country’s history and to honor those who helped shape it.
  • Portraits on banknotes can also be used for counterfeiting prevention purposes. The high level of detail used in the portrait can make it difficult for counterfeiters to mimic, thus ensuring the integrity of the banknote.

In conclusion, portraits on banknotes are a way to honor significant historical figures or symbols that represent a country’s identity. They can also be used for practical purposes, such as for anti-counterfeiting measures. In the case of Canada, the Queen’s portrait on banknotes signifies the country’s ties to the monarchy and its multiculturalism.


Source Link
The Canadian Encyclopedia https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/currency
Bank of Canada https://www.bankofcanada.ca/banknotes/banknoteable-people/

Evolution of Queen Elizabeth’s Portrayals on Canadian Money

Queen Elizabeth II’s reign in Canada has been marked by a number of changes in her portrayal on Canadian money. From her earliest days on the throne in the 1950s to the present day, the Queen has evolved from a young monarch to a seasoned leader, and her image on Canadian currency has reflected those changes.

Changes in Her Image

  • In 1952, the first Canadian banknotes featuring the Queen’s image were released. At the time, the Queen was 26 years old and new to the throne, and her image was that of a fresh, young monarch.
  • As the years passed, the Queen’s image began to change. In the 1970s and 1980s, the portraits of the Queen on Canadian money began to show a more mature monarch, with a more regal and distinguished appearance.
  • By the 2000s, the Queen’s image on Canadian currency had evolved once again, this time showing her as a leader who had been on the throne for over 50 years. Her image was that of a wise and experienced monarch who had led Canada through many changes and challenges.

Significance of the Changes

The changes in the Queen’s image on Canadian currency are significant, as they reflect the changing nature of the Queen’s reign and her relationship with the Canadian people. As the Queen has grown older and more experienced, her image on Canadian money has become more regal and refined, reflecting her status as a respected and beloved leader.

At the same time, the changes in the Queen’s image also reflect the changing relationship between Canada and the United Kingdom. As Canada has become more independent and assertive on the world stage, the Queen’s image on Canadian currency has become more distinct from her image on British currency, reflecting Canada’s unique identity and place in the world.

The Future of the Queen’s Image on Canadian Money

The evolution of the Queen’s image on Canadian money is likely to continue in the years to come. As the Queen continues to age and new generations of Canadians come to know her, her image on Canadian currency will evolve to reflect these changes.

Year Banknote Design
1952 Young Queen Elizabeth II
1979 Queen Elizabeth II with a more mature appearance
2001 Queen Elizabeth II with a more regal and distinguished appearance
2015 Queen Elizabeth II as a long-serving and experienced monarch

Overall, the Queen’s image on Canadian currency has undergone significant changes over the years, reflecting both her changing role as a monarch and Canada’s evolving relationship with the United Kingdom and the world. As the years go by, it is likely that the Queen’s image on Canadian money will continue to evolve to reflect these changes and the dynamic relationship between the Queen, Canada, and the Canadian people.

Criticism Surrounding Queen Elizabeth’s Appearance on Canadian Currency

Canada has been using Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait on its currency since 1935, when the central bank was established. While many Canadians view this tradition as a symbol of Canada’s ties to the UK monarchy, some see it as a reflection of the country’s ingrained colonialism. Here are some of the criticisms surrounding the Queen’s appearance on Canadian currency:

  • The Queen does not represent Canada’s diverse population
  • Using the image of a foreign monarch perpetuates Canada’s colonial past
  • The choice to put the Queen rather than a symbol of Canadian culture or history on currency reflects a lack of creativity and imagination on the part of the Canadian government

Proponents of keeping the image of the Queen on Canadian currency argue that it is a symbol of tradition and stability that connects Canada to its British roots. However, the criticism surrounding the use of her image highlights the need for Canada to continue evolving and redefining its identity.

Furthermore, the issue of representation is a significant concern. While the Queen may hold ceremonial and symbolic power in Canada, it is imperative to acknowledge and celebrate the country’s diversity and the contributions made by individuals of different backgrounds. The use of Indigenous imagery or other symbols of multiculturalism and inclusion on Canadian currency could be a step towards addressing this criticism.

The Future of Canadian Currency

In recent years, there have been calls to remove the Queen’s image from Canadian currency and replace it with a symbol of Canadian identity. While this is a contentious issue, it is important to continue exploring how Canadian currency can reflect the country’s values and diverse population. In 2018, the Bank of Canada launched a public consultation to gather input on what symbols and images should be represented on Canadian banknotes. This consultation could lead to changes in the design of Canadian currency in the future.


The issue of the Queen’s appearance on Canadian currency highlights the importance of regularly reviewing and redefining Canadian identity. While some may view the tradition of using the Queen’s portrait as a symbol of Canada’s connection to its British roots, others see it as perpetuating a colonial past. By exploring ways to reflect the country’s values and diverse population on Canadian currency, the country can continue to evolve and redefine its identity.

Pros Cons
The Queen’s portrait on Canadian currency symbolizes Canada’s ties to the UK monarchy Using a foreign monarch’s image perpetuates Canada’s colonial past
The image of the Queen represents tradition and stability The Queen’s image does not represent Canada’s diverse population
The use of a foreign monarch’s image reflects a lack of creativity and imagination in Canadian design

Ultimately, the decision to keep or remove the Queen’s image from Canadian currency is a reflection of the country’s values and identity. By continuing to have open discussions and public consultations, Canada can move towards a currency that better represents its diverse population and cultural identity.

Modern Designs and Security Measures on Canadian Banknotes

Canada’s banknotes are not only visually appealing, but also incorporate multiple security features to prevent counterfeits. The modern designs on the Canadian banknotes reflect the country’s national identity, culture, and history, while the security measures ensure safety and reliability in every transaction. Let’s take a closer look at how modern designs and security measures have been implemented on Canadian banknotes.

Modern Designs

  • The new $5 banknote features an illustration of the Canadarm2 and Dextre on the International Space Station, symbolizing Canada’s contribution to space exploration and technology.
  • The $10 banknote showcases the portrait of Viola Desmond, a civil rights pioneer, and a view of the Library of Parliament.
  • On the $20 banknote, there is a portrait of Bill Reid, a renowned Haida artist, and an image of a Haida canoe, representing the country’s indigenous culture.
  • The $50 banknote features a portrait of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s longest-serving prime minister, and a view of the Canadian Museum of History.
  • The $100 banknote highlights Sir Robert Borden, the eighth prime minister of Canada, and a picture of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, honoring the soldiers who fought in World War I.

Security Measures

Counterfeit detection is a crucial aspect of Canadian banknotes. The Bank of Canada has incorporated several security features to prevent fraud and increase safety:

  • Transparent text: The vertical strips on the left side of the banknote display the denomination value and have a see-through section.
  • 3D holographic stripe: A metallic stripe with a 3D effect and multiple images can be seen at different angles.
  • Color-shifting images: The metallic images shift in color between gold and green when the banknote is tilted.
  • Infrared security: Each banknote includes a specific infrared signature that can only be detected by machines.


The modern designs on Canadian banknotes celebrate the country’s identity, while the security measures prevent fraud and ensure transparency in financial transactions. The Bank of Canada strives to maintain the quality and reliability of its banknotes, keeping pace with the latest technological advancements in the field of currency.

Denomination (CAD) Size (mm x mm) Color
$5 152.4mm x 69.85mm Blue
$10 152.4mm x 69.85mm Purple
$20 152.4mm x 69.85mm Green
$50 152.4mm x 69.85mm Red
$100 152.4mm x 69.85mm Brown

The table above shows the denomination, size, and color of Canadian banknotes.

Role of the Royal Canadian Mint in Producing Banknotes

The Royal Canadian Mint is responsible for producing banknotes for Canada. The Mint was established in 1908 and its primary role was to issue and circulate Canadian coins. It wasn’t until 1935 that the Mint became responsible for printing banknotes as well.

The banknotes produced by the Mint feature a range of notable Canadians, including the Queen’s image on select denominations. The decision to feature the Queen on Canadian banknotes was made in recognition of her role as the Queen of Canada, and as a symbol of Canada’s close relationship with the United Kingdom.

The Process of Producing Banknotes

  • Design: A detailed design is created for the banknote, including the image of the Queen or other notable Canadians.
  • Printing: The design is then printed onto a sheet of paper, which is then cut into individual banknotes.
  • Security Measures: Various security measures are added to the banknote to prevent counterfeiting. These measures may include holograms, watermarks, and unique serial numbers.

The Importance of Security Measures

The security measures used in Canadian banknotes are highly advanced and constantly evolving. This is to help prevent counterfeiting, which can have serious implications for the economy and for individuals who are unwittingly tricked into accepting counterfeit currency. The Royal Canadian Mint is committed to staying ahead of counterfeiting technology in order to maintain public trust in the currency.

The security measures used in Canadian banknotes are so advanced that they are often used as a benchmark for other countries to follow.

The Environmental Impact of Banknote Production

The production of banknotes has a significant environmental impact. The Royal Canadian Mint is committed to minimizing this impact by using sustainable materials and reducing waste wherever possible. For example, the Mint uses a special type of paper for its banknotes that is made from 100% renewable materials.

Environmental Impact Measures Taken
Paper 100% renewable materials
Inks VOC-free inks
Water Usage Reduced water usage by 50%

The Royal Canadian Mint is committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Commemorative and Limited Edition Currency in Canada

One of the reasons why the Queen is on Canadian money is because Canada is part of the Commonwealth of Nations, of which the Queen is the Head of State. As a result, the Queen’s image is featured prominently on Canadian currency. However, in addition to the regular circulation coins and banknotes that feature the Queen, the Royal Canadian Mint also produces commemorative and limited edition currency that honors various aspects of Canadian culture and history.

Here are seven examples of commemorative and limited edition currency in Canada:

  • The 1967 Centennial Series – In 1967, Canada celebrated its centennial year, and the Royal Canadian Mint produced a special series of coins to commemorate the occasion. The series featured new designs on the 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, and $1 coins, all of which depicted famous Canadian symbols and landmarks.
  • The 1992 Province and Territory Coins – In 1992, the Royal Canadian Mint released a series of coins featuring the coats of arms of each of Canada’s provinces and territories. The coins were released in the order that the provinces and territories entered Confederation, with Newfoundland and Labrador being the final coin in the series.
  • The 2008 Lucky Loonie – In advance of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Royal Canadian Mint produced a special edition $1 coin that featured a loon, a famous Canadian bird, and a maple leaf, a symbol of Canada. The coin was meant to bring luck to Canadian athletes competing in Beijing.
  • The 2017 Canada 150 Collection – To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017, the Royal Canadian Mint released a collection of coins and banknotes featuring various designs that reflected Canadian history, culture, and natural beauty. The collection included coins with designs such as a hockey player, a polar bear, and a canoeist.
  • The 2019 Pride Coin – In 2019, the Royal Canadian Mint released a $1 coin that featured a stylized maple leaf with the colors of the rainbow, in celebration of Pride Month and Canada’s LGBTQ+ community.
  • The 2020 Holiday Coins – Every year, the Royal Canadian Mint releases special holiday-themed coins and banknotes. In 2020, the Mint released a series of coins that depicted various Canadian winter scenes, including ice skating, curling, and building snowmen.
  • The 2021 Wildlife Treasures Collection – The Royal Canadian Mint produces a variety of coins that feature Canada’s wildlife, and in 2021, they released a special collection that highlighted some of Canada’s most fascinating animals, such as the caribou, the lynx, and the grizzly bear.

As you can see, commemorative and limited edition currency in Canada offers a unique way to learn about and celebrate Canada’s culture and history. Whether you’re a collector or simply interested in Canadian heritage, these special coins and banknotes are worth exploring.

Why is the Queen on Canadian Money?

Q: Why is the Queen’s portrait on Canadian money?
A: Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State of Canada and a symbol of the country’s historical ties to Great Britain.

Q: How long has the Queen been on Canadian money?
A: Queen Elizabeth II has been featured on Canadian coins and bills since her coronation in 1953.

Q: Which Canadian currency features the Queen’s portrait?
A: The Queen’s portrait can be found on all Canadian banknotes, as well as certain commemorative coins.

Q: Has the Queen always been the only person depicted on Canadian money?
A: No, historically there have been other portraits on Canadian money, but the Queen is the only consistent figure on all Canadian banknotes.

Q: Are there any plans to change the portrait on Canadian money?
A: While there have been discussions about updating the portrait or including other notable figures, no concrete plans have been announced.

Q: What is the significance of the Queen’s portrait on Canadian money?
A: The Queen’s image serves as a reminder of Canada’s long-standing political and cultural relationship with Great Britain, and also represents stability and continuity.

Thanks for Taking the Time to Learn about the Queen on Canadian Money!

We hope you found this information helpful and gained a new appreciation for the historical significance of the Queen’s portrait on Canadian money. Come back soon for more interesting tidbits about Canadian culture and history!