Canadian Dollar

Name of Currency:  Canadian Dollar

Country / countries used:  Canada, Saint Pierre and Miquelon

Symbol:  C$

Brief history:

Starting at the beginning with Canada’s ‘First Nations’, the Aboriginal peoples of North America held strings and belts decorated with beads of white and purple shells native to the eastern seaboard, in very high regard, and in the absence of coinage these fashion items, referred to as “wampum” by the English settlers from the Algonquin term “wampumpeague” or by the French settlers as “porcelain”, where used for bartering purposes. Soon becoming legal tender in the country with all the useful hallmarks of a currency, the European settlers traded wampum for essentials from the Native peoples to whom the demand for the shells was high but for other reasons, to them these beads of shell held considerable symbolic and even ceremonial value. Also implemented as legal tender where beaver pelts, wheat and moose skins but as the European colonies grew as did their financial needs which is when French coins started to be used, due to the difficulties that come with trans-Atlantic transportation of the gold and silver the French currency was then given a higher value.

In 1685 ‘New France’ found itself short on funds due to the expense of military action against the English allies, when they could no longer delay payment to the merchants and the soldiers drastic times called for drastic measures they came up with the solution to print money on playing cards. This plan however was not approved by the king of France and he was not best pleased claiming that these card notes were “extremely dangerous, nothing being easier to counterfeit than this sort of money” but the cards were kept in place until 1717, as financial aid to the colonies was reduced and they relied even more heavily on the card money to pay debts, inflation rose sharply and it was decided to redeem them at 50% of their original value as a money exchange and withdraw them from circulation permanently.

Following the war between Great Britain and France trade between the two was no longer illegal and this meant foreign currency exchange, leading to French, British, Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American coins being in circulation and all noted as legal tender, although many different notes and coins came through Canada, the Canadian dollar wasn’t introduced until 1841. There were several changes in how it was valued but in 1853 it was agreed that the Canadian dollar would be on a gold standard and therefore fixed to the demand in terms of gold and convertible on demand and this remained until the beginning of world war one. At this time when gold withdrawals sky-rocketed due to public panic it was decided by the Canadian Bankers Association on the 3rd August 1914 that the answer to this crisis was to make notes issued by the Canadian banks legal tender, thus allowing the banks to meet their demands with their own notes rather than with those from the Dominion or with gold and apart from a brief blip (1926 – 31) the Canadian dollar stayed off the gold standard.

The Bank of Canada was introduced in 1934 for the sole purpose of issuing a standardised paper currency in Canada and in 1943 the last bank notes issued by any chartered banks were released. The first silver dollar was issued by the Royal Canadian Mint in 1935 but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the Canadian dollar was the only usable currency as up until then the Great British sterling was still considered legal tender.