The Bank of Canada has unveiled its latest commemorative note ahead of the nation’s sesquicentennial anniversary and the new $10 bill includes depictions of four noteworthy Canadians.

“There are four portraits for the very first time on the bill,” said Ted Mieszkalski of the Bank of Canada, “all of whom collectively, and individually, represent milestones in the growth and development of Canada.”

The commemorative 150 note includes portraits of:

  • Sir George-Étienne Cartier – one of the fathers of Confederation
  • Sir John A Macdonald - Canada’s first Prime Minister
  • Agnes Macphail – the first woman to be elected to Canadian parliament
  • James Gladstone – Canada’s first First Nations senator

The back of the bill features a depiction of the northern lights and images from Canada’s five major regions.

Mieszkalski says 40 million of the notes will be placed into circulation, a number selected to slightly exceed an ideal ‘one note per Canadian’ ratio, and he suspects the $10 bills will be in high demand.

“Given the unique note itself and how different it looks from any other bill we’ve ever produced, coupled with the fact it celebrates Canada’s 150th anniversary, there is a sense that perhaps Canadians will retain this.”

Chris Stevens of Albern Coins and Foreign Exchange expects interest in the limited edition note, with its unprecedented design, will be high.

“It's not going to be one of those bills you can get later,” said Stevens. “It's not a bill you can hopefully get in change at the gas station. You've got to strike while the iron is hot, you've got to get to the bank and stand in line.”

The inclusion of Macphail and Gladstone is a noticeable departure from the less-than-diverse list of prominent people to previously appear on Canadian currency.

Gladstone was from the Blood Nation in southern Alberta where he is still revered to this day. Mark Brave Rock, a Blood Nation elder, says Gladstone’s placement on the commemorative note is of great importance to First Nations people.

“It’s very important recognition for a lot of our younger generation,” explained Brave Rock. “We need to see ourselves as very important people in Canada’s history and the present.”

Maki Motapanyane, a professor of women’s studies at Mount Royal University, hopes Macphail’s inclusion on the Canada 150 $10 bill and the $10 banknote depicting civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond, to be released in 2018, are more than just tokenistic.

“On the face of it, it’s a good thing. The more formal representation we can have, the more diversity that we can have, in our national forms of representation, the better.”

Motapanyane hopes the inclusion of important Canadian women on currency will coincide with expanded curriculum in schools to allow “Canadians to be able to gain a greater sense of what our collective history was really like”.

The Bank of Canada says the design of the commemorative bill was the result of a communal effort involving Canadians from coast-to-coast.

"It is a function of the coming together of many opinions shared by Canadians literally across Canada," said Mieszkalski. "We've listened to what they had to say and we built a bill to reflect what they wanted."

The Canada 150 notes will be released into circulation on June 1 in an attempt to have the bills readily available ahead of Canada Day.

With files from CTV's Kevin Green