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Meet the Author: Merna Forster
Merna Forster with Governor General David Johnston (Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall, OSGG.
©Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Canada represented by the Office of the Secretary to the GG)
Merna Forster was awarded the 2016 Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media (Pierre Berton Award). Governor General David Johnston presented her with this prestigious award in a ceremony at Rideau Hall on November 28, 2016.
Merna is a writer, historian, educator, public speaker, photographer and genealogist. She's the author of the popular books 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces and 100 More Canadian Heroines as well as a picture book for children, articles in newspapers and magazines, a national park brochure and several retail booklets. Merna has a particular interest in women's history, natural and cultural heritage, travel and the outdoors.
Merna earned a B.A. at the University of Alberta in Edmonton after studying both arts and sciences. A recipient of the Richard J. Schmeelk Canada Fellowship, Merna received an M.A. in history from Laval University in Quebec City.
Merna worked with national parks and national historic sites across Canada in the areas of educational programs, outreach and visitor services. One of her favourite postings was in Haines Junction, Yukon - where she was the Chief of Visitor Services for Kluane National Park. Merna also enjoyed her many years as a Parks Canada naturalist in Jasper National Park, where she was a longtime board member and eventually president of the Jasper Yellowhead Historical Society.
Merna has worked in the field of Canadian Studies. During her career with the federal government, she was a civil servant in the Department of Canadian Heritage as well as Parks Canada. She was the recipient of group awards such as the Deputy Minister`s Award 1999-2000: Installation of Governor General, and the Deputy Minister's Award 2001-2002: Development of CultureCanada.gc.ca Website.
While based in Ottawa she received the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Commemorative Medal and served as vice-president of the Ottawa Independent Writers. In 2005 Merna was awarded The Lieutenant Governor's Celebration of the Arts Pin by Dr. Lynda Haverstock, Lieutenant Governor, Province of Saskatchewan. Merna Forster was one of the women featured in
Herstory 2011: The Canadian Women's Calendar. She received a University of Alberta Alumni Honour Award in September 2012, to honour her accomplishments as a Canadian historian and her advocacy in raising awareness of Canada's unsung heroines. In 2015, Merna Forster was awarded the prestigious Daughters of the American Revolution Historic Preservation Medal by Lynn Forney Young, president general of DAR.
Merna Forster, leader of the national campaign to get Canadian women on bank notes, and Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz (Justin Tang photo).
Merna currently works at the University of Victoria as Executive Director of the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History Project, which received the 2008 Pierre Berton Award. She was a member of the Emily Carr Statue Committe (Parks & Recreation Foundation of Victoria), which raised the money for the Emily Carr statue.
From 2013-2016, Merna Forster led the successful national campaign calling for Canadian women on bank notes. This resulted in a committment from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau to feature a woman from Canadian history on bank notes in 2018. The announcement was made on March 8, 2016 - International Women's Day. The Bank of Canada selected Merna as one of a seven-member Advisory Council that reviewed nominations for the iconic Canadian woman to appear on a new bank note in 2018.
On December 8, 2016, Merna attended a special event at the Canadian Museum of History, where Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that he'd selected Viola Desmond to appear on the face of $10 bank notes in 2018. During the ceremony, The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women, acknowledged Merna's role: "We are also here because of Merna Forster who, as you may know, started the public campaign to feature a woman on a Canadian banknote. Under Merna's leadership, more than 70,000 people added their voices to this campaign and, after years of perserverance, those efforts have paid off! This spirit of activism is the force that allows us to make progress even on the most difficult and intractable issues - issues like racism, sexism and inequality.”
Merna Forster (left) with Desmond family members, Minister of Status of Women Patty Hajdu, Finance Minister Bill
Morneau and dignitaries.
As noted by journalist Ariane Krol in an editorial in La Presse following the announcement that Desmond would appear on the $10 bill, historian Merna Forster received a prize (Pierre Berton Award) "pour avoir convaincu un premier ministre de mettre enfin un personnage historique féminin sur les billets de banque" (for having convinced a prime minister to at last put a female historical figure on the bank notes).
- May 2017: An article written by Merna Forster appeared in a special Canada 150 issue of Canada's History magazine. The June/July issue featured a section about the "Big Questions of Canada," which included articles by Adrienne Clarkson, Ry Moran, Charlotte Gray, Andrew Coyne, Merna Forster and Roméo Dallaire. Merna addressed the question "Is gender equality achievable?".
- April 22, 2017: Feature about Merna Forster appeared in Thought Box (University of Alberta). Title: Note-worthy women.
- April 2, 2017: Article on Merna Forster appeared in the Ontario History And Social Studies Teachers' Association (OHASSTA) Blog. Title: Doing History - Merna Forster of Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History.
- Dec. 12, 2016: Story in La Presse re selection of Viola Desmond for $10 bill, and Merna Forster's campaign to get Canadian women on bank notes: Nouveaux billets de 10 $ : une femme en cache une autre.
- Dec. 10, 2016: Editorial in Times Colonist refers to Merna Forster's women on bank notes campaign: The power of one person.
- Dec. 10, 2016: Article re Merna Forster's work appeared on CBC News BC: B.C. author who championed women for bank notes hopes Viola Desmond is the first of many.
- Dec. 9, 2016: Merna was a guest on CBC Radio One in Victoria, then CBC Radio West from Kelowna.
- Dec. 8, 2016: Merna was quoted in an article from Canadian Geographic: Civil rights activist Viola Desmond to grace new $10 bill.
- Dec. 8, 2016: Merna Forster was interviewed by Bev Thompson on CTV News Channel, then by Mercedes Stephenson for CTV News (national broadcast in evening).
- Dec. 8, 2016: Merna attended a special event at the Canadian Museum of History, where Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that he'd selected Viola Desmond to appear on the face of $10 bank notes in 2018. The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women, acknowledged Merna's role: "We are also here because of Merna Forster who, as you may know, started the public campaign to feature a woman on a Canadian banknote. Under Merna's leadership, more than 70,000 people added their voices to this campaign and, after years of perserverance, those efforts have paid off! This spirit of activism is the force that allows us to make progress even on the most difficult and intractable issues - issues like racism, sexism and inequality."
- Dec. 3, 2016: Story about Merna Forster in The Globe and Mail: On the money, Author helps put Canadian women back on our bills.
- Nov. 29, 2016: Article re Merna Forster in Times Colonist: Local historian honoured by Governor General in Ottawa.
- Nov. 28, 2016: Received Pierre Berton Award from Governor General David Johnston, at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
- Fall 2016: An article written by Merna Forster appeared in Canadian Issues, published by the Association for Canadian Studies. Title is Money Makeover: Canadian Women on Bank Notes.
- October 22, 2016: Merna was a panelist at the 14th National Conference of Teaching and Communicating the History of Canada (organized by The Association for Canadian Studies), in Winnipeg. She was part of a plenary session on "Women's Rights in Canada: The Past, Present and Future," along with Madeline Zeniak, Joan Sangster and Linda McDowell.
- October 20, 2016: Story about Merna Forster's award in Times colonist: Victoria’s Merna Forster receives award for popularizing Canadian history.
- October 20, 2016: Canada's History announced that Merna Forster has been awarded the 2016 Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media
(Pierre Berton Award).
- October 15, 2016: Merna Forster was the guest speaker for CFUW (Canadian Federation of University Women) Nanaimo, at a luncheon meeting celebrating Persons Day.
- October 13, 2016: Merna was a panelist at a conference in Victoria. The Conference on Women & Leadership, was sponsored by Friends of St. Ann's Academy, in collaboration with Leadership Studies, University of Victoria, and Royal B.C.Museum. She was a member of the opening panel discussion: "Reflecting on Gender Justice."
- October 10, 2016: Merna Forster did a televised interview with Brad Giffen on CTV News Channel, re Canadian women on bank notes.
- October 3, 2016: Merna was interviewed by Jason Turnbull, host of the radio show Up North, for CBC Sudbury. An article was posted on CBCNews: Merna Forster, author who helped convince the Bank of Canada to feature women on bank notes, visits Sudbury.
- October 3, 2016: Merna Forster was the guest speaker for a celebration of Women's History Month at Laurentian University in Sudbury, and joined Laurentian University president Dominic Giroux for a discussion of Canadian women on bank notes.
- April 13, 2016: Merna's work on bank notes is profiled in an article in Munich, Germany in the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung: Weil 2016 ist.
- April 10, 2016: Merna Forster was a guest on Cross Country Checkup (CBC Radio) for the program "Which great Canadian women deserve to be on our currency?"
- April 8, 2016: Merna Forster was quoted in a newspaper article written by activists Craig and Marc Kielburger: Too many notable women for just one Canadian bill
- April 4, 2016: The Bank of Canada announced that Merna Forster was selected as one of a seven-member Advisory Council that will review nominations for the iconic Canadian woman to appear on a new bank note in 2018:
L to R: Michael Redhead Champagne, Perdita Felicien, Dominic Giroux and Merna Forster in Ottawa.
Meet the panel that will help choose a woman for the new Canadian banknote, Toronto Star.
Advisory Council Members, Bank of Canada website.
- March 30, 2016: Merna Forster was the guest on a phone-in show about Canadian women on bank notes: Maritime Noon, CBC Radio One, broadcast in Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick.
- March 20, 2016: Merna Forster was quoted in article Women finally getting their money's worth, in Winnipeg Free Press.
- March 19, 2016: Merna's campaign was featured in Money make-over petition a success, an interview with Radio Canada International.
- March 16, 2016: Merna Forster was interviewed by John Geddes, Ottawa Bureau Chief, Maclean's Magazine.
- March 2016: Merna Forster was profiled and mentioned in extensive media coverage of the announcement to celebrate an iconic Canadian woman on a bank note, including: Historian who campaigned for change thrilled women to appear on Canadian dollar bills (Toronto Star) and Canadian history you can bank on (The Globe and Mail).
- March 15, 2016: Merna Forster was interviewed on The Sheldon MacLeod Show (News 957 Halifax) and The Lynda Steele Show (CKNW Vancouver).
- March 14, 2016: Merna Forster was a guest on a phone-in show on CBC Radio in Saskatchewan (Blue Sky).
- March 12, 2016: Merna Forster posted victory statement on change.org/CanadianHeroines petition, and thanks petitioners.
- March 11, 2016: Merna did a radio interview for News Talk 770 in Calgary, with Roger Kingkade and Rob Breakenridge, an interview for Radio Canada International with Carmel Kilkenny, and an interview with Aviva West for a Q&A on Yahoo Canada News. Taped radio interview for Bell Media syndicated show.
- March 10, 2016: Finance Minister Bill Morneau thanked Merna and the more than 73,000 people who signed the petition for Canadian women on bank notes.
- March 9, 2016: Merna did twenty interviews re the success of her bank notes campaign:
Television interview with Heather Hiscox on CBC News Network. Radio interview with The Eric Drozd Show, 570 News, Kitchner. Sixteen interviews for CBC radio stations across Canada: New Brunswick, Montreal, Windsor, Victoria, Saskatchewan, Yellowknife, Winnipeg, Chaarlottetown, Halifax, Calgary, Vancouver, Cape Breton, Whitehorse, Kelowna, Edmonton and Sudbury. Interviews for stories in the Toronto Star It’s not about the money, it’s about the misogyny) and Metro Vancouver (Which B.C. woman of note are you banking on?).
- March 8, 2016: Merna did a television interview for CHEK News (Victoria), a radio interview for CFAX 1070 radio (Victoria), an interview for an article in the Times Colonist re the success of her bank notes campaign.
- March 8, 2016: Victory! Merna Forster's campaign to get Canadian women on bank notes is successful. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced, on International Women's Day, that an iconic Canadian woman will appear on a bank note in 2018: Canadian woman will be on next series of bank notes, Trudeau announces
- February 3, 2016: Merna Forster was a guest on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News957, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
- January 27, 2016: An op-ed by Merna Forster was published in the Ottawa Citizen: Bye bye Laurier, hello Lucy? Time to change our money
- January 15, 2016: Merna Forster was interviewed by Rosemary Barton, on the CBC television show Power and Politics, re her Canadian women on bank notes campaign.
- January 13, 2016: Merna Forster was quoted in a CBC News story about Canadian women on bank notes: Finance Minister Bill Morneau says it's time to put women on banknotes, and mentioned in news coverage across the country re Morneau's announcement.
- January 7, 2016: Merna's campaign was the subject of an article in the Winnipeg Free Press: Women missing on bank notes
- January 7, 2016: Merna's campaign was the topic of a Jack Knox column in the Times Colonist: The smart money is on women on banknotes
- January 1, 2016: Merna Forster's Canadian women on bank notes campaign was covered in a CBC News article: In 2016, let's make women visible, starting with the money
- November 14, 2015: Merna gave a presentation about The Franklin Expedition Mystery at the National Council for the Social Studies conference in New Orleans, Louisiana
- October 27, 2015: Merna Forster was the guest speaker for the Canadian Federation of University Women, Saanich Peninsula Chapter
- October 12, 2015: Merna was quoted in a CBC News article: Not enough women: Bureaucrats critique Parliament Hill light show
- October 8, 2015: Merna Forster's Canadian women on bank notes campaign is highlighted in a story in The Vancouver Sun: Stephen Hume: Support campaign to put women on Canada’s banknotes
- September 16, 2015: Merna Forster quoted in Yahoo news article: Whitehorse city council endorses women’s return to Canadian currency
- September 14, 2015: Radio interview on The Eric Drozd Show (570 News, Kitchener) re bank notes campaign.
- August 12, 2015: Radio interview on CBC Radio Noon (Montreal) re Montreal City Council motion calling for women on Canadian bank notes.
- May 3, 2015: Lynn Forney Young, president general of the Daughters of the American Revolution, presented Merna Forster with the prestigious Daughters of the American Revolution Historic Preservation Medal at a DAR gathering held at the Butchart Gardens.
- April 14, 2015: Merna Forster's Canadian women on bank notes campaign is mentioned in an article in Australia: Australia a world leader in female representation on banknotes
- April 13, 2015: Merna Forster's Canadian women on bank notes campaign is included in a story in BBC News Magazine: Which country has the least sexist banknotes?
- March 20, 2015: Merna Forster's bank notes campaign is mentioned in an article in The Huffington Post Canada: How the Internet Can Help Young Women Empower Themselves
- March 10, 2015: Merna Forster was quoted in a feature about Canadian women on bank notes in La Presse: Où sont les femmes?
- March 6, 2015: Merna Forster's bank notes campaign is mentioned in a column by Elizabeth Renzetti in The Globe and Mail: Spocking the fiver’s a loving tribute. But still no women? Most illogical
- February 9, 2015: Radio interview on News 95.7 (Halifax): Sheldon MacLeod Show
- February 2, 2015: Merna Forster's Canadian Women on Bank Notes campaign was mentioned in an article in The Ottawa Citizen: John Boyko: The best faces for Canadian banknotes
- January 20, 2015: Radio interview with Eric Drozd: 570 News Midday Show (Kitchener)
- January 19, 2015: Radio interview with Ian Jessop: CFAX 1070 (Victoria)
- January 17, 2015: Merna Forster's Canadian Women on Bank Notes campaign was covered in an article in The Huffington Post Canada: NDP MPs Want To See More Women On Canadian Money
- December 18, 2014: Merna Forster was interviewed for a Q&A posted on the Canadian Geographic Blog: Q&A with Merna Forster about women on Canadian banknotes
- December 6, 2014: Merna Forster's petition is mentioned in a story in The Huffington Post Canada: Women on Canadian Money May Finally Be Possible With Confederation Bank Note
- November 19, 2014: Merna Forster's Women on Bank Notes Campaign was featured in an article in The Globe and Mail: Petition to see women on bank notes tops 50,000
- November 17, 2014: Merna Forster was quoted about her petition in an article on CBCNews North: Petition to put women on Canadian banknotes draws nearly 50K signatures
- November 17, 2014: Merna Forster was quoted in a story about Frances Gertrude McGill, on CBCNews Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan's Frances Gertrude McGill on Canadian money?"
- November 14, 2014: Merna Forster was interviewed on a dozen different CBC radio programs across Canada regarding the Canadian women on bank notes campaign.
- November 11, 2014: Television Interview with Kylie Stanton, re Canadian Women on Bank Notes Campaign, broadcast on Global BC TV: News Hour 6 p.m. show.
- November 11, 2014: Television Interview with Randene Neil, broadcast on Global BC TV: BC1 at 2:00 p.m.
- November 4, 2014: Merna Forster’s Women on Bank Notes Campaign was featured in an article in The Huffington Post Canada: ‘Women On Canadian Banknotes' Seeks More Female Faces On The Country's Money
- November 4, 2014: Merna Forster was interviewed by Carmel Kilkenny for Radio Canada International:
- October 29, 2014: Merna Forster was a guest speaker at Capilano University in North Vancouver, BC. Her Canadian Heroines presentation, organized by The Women’s & Gender Studies Department, was a special event for Women’s History Month. It was a part of the Hon. Thomas A. Dohm Q.C. Lecture Series.
- Late October 2014: Launch of interactive website womenonbanknotes.ca by Change.org and Merna Forster
- October 16, 2014: Radio Interview on the John Oakley Show: Talk Radio AM640 (Toronto)
- October 15, 2014: Radio Interview with Jim Richards Showgram: NEWSTALK 1010 (Toronto)
- On October 12, 2014, Merna Forster’s Women on Bank Notes Campaign was featured in an article on CBC/News:
Bank of Canada still not committed to women on currency, petition says
- Merna Forster was mentioned in a column by Elizabeth Renzetti in The Globe and Mail, on October 4, 2014: The daily battles of feminism don't come with backup dancers
- Boulevard Magazine published Merna Forster's travel article and photographs in the September 2014 issue: Haida Gwaii Getaway.
- On July 1, 2014, Merna was a guest on C-FAX 1070 Radio. Listeners participated in her Canada Day Trivia Quiz: Herstory!
- Boulevard Magazine published Merna's travel article and photographs in the December 2013 issue: Gimme More of Gimmelwald.
- As of December 2013, more than 26,000 people have signed Merna Forster's petition to Stephen Poloz, Bank of Canada: Add women from Canadian history to Canadian bank notes. Cannot give up!
- Merna Forster was interviewed on the CTV National News for a story on her bank notes petition: Margaret Atwood backs petition calling for women on bank notes
- Merna was quoted in a newpaper article in The Globe and Mail on October 16, 2013: Why Margaret Atwood's latest cause is the $50 bill
- On July 26, 2013, Merna Forster started a petition to Stephen Poloz, Bank of Canada: Add women from Canadian history to Canadian bank notes
- Merna Forster was quoted in a National Post article by journalist Dean Beeby on July 7, 2013: Carney to include women on U.K. bank notes after women purged from Canada's.
- An article about Merna Forster and her books appeared in the July 2013 issue of Seaside Magazine. You can read it online, page 59.
- To celebrate Women's History Month in Canada, Merna Forster shared some stories of amazing Canadian women with Jody Vance on Breakfast TV in Vancouver on October 17, 2012.
Jody Vance (left) with Merna Forster
- Merna's news article "Women, Minorities Shortchanged on New Banknotes" appeared in the fall 2012 issue of Herizons magazine .
- To encourage celebration of Women's History Month in Canada, the Girl Guides of Canada invited Merna Forster to be a guest blogger. Check out her post (October 5, 2012).
- Merna's article Secret Agent Chastelain: A Page in Canadian History was published in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of the Homeschool Guide magazine.
- Merna Forster was included as one of Victoria's "Local Women Making a Difference" in a special newspaper insert published by Black Press. The article "History's Heroines: UVic historian tracks Canada's heroines" profiled her work as well as some of the historical figures she's written about.
To celebrate International Women's Day 2012, Merna was the guest of Jody Vance on Breakfast TV - Vancouver.
Jody Vance (left) with Merna Forster
- Merna's books were mentioned in an article (View from Vancouver) in the January 2012 issue of Dance International magazine.
- The Chronicle Herald (Halifax) ran a full-page story on 100 More Canadian Heroines: Notable women who time forgot
- Merna's work was highlighted in an article in the Spring 2012 issue of Boulevard Magazine: Victoria Author Merna Forster brings forgotten Canadian heroines into the light (be patient, takes a while to load)
- Merna Forster's new publication 100 More Canadian Heroines was among the list of favourite books from 2011 identified by Canadian political figures. The list appeared in a newspaper article that appeared in many major newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Calgary Herald: What they're reading in Ottawa. "An inspirational read" said MP Michelle Rempel.
- On December 5, 2011, 100 More Canadian Heroines was selected as Book of the Week by Elise Cotter of the Historica-Dominion Institute. This is "the largest, independent organization dedicated to Canadian history, identity and citizenship."
Book of the Week.
- Merna's op-ed piece on the new banknotes appeared in the Times Colonist and was picked up by many other newspapers across the country:
Banknotes hard to forge, but women missing.
- Merna's book 100 More Canadian Heroines is recommended in History Matters, the journal of the National Council for History Education in the United States.
- One of Merna's photographs (of sculptor Barbara Paterson) is included in Herstory 2012: The Canadian Women's Calendar. A number of the profiles in this interesting calendar were inspired by the heroines.ca website.
- Merna's book 100 More Canadian Heroines was launched in October 2011 in celebrations of Women's History Month at Emily Carr National Historic Site in Victoria, and at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa.
More on launch event in Victoria.
More on launch event in Ottawa.
Merna's book 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces was published by The Dundurn Group of Toronto. Ask for the book at a store near you! The publication is also available from
amazon.ca, amazon.com and
Read more about 100 Canadian Heroines, and check out the book reviews.
The second volume in the series is 100 More Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces, published by The Dundurn Group in September 2011. Be sure to check for it at your local bookstore, or order from amazon.ca, amazon.com or chapters.indigo.ca.
Merna's picture book Children of the Prairie was published by Baico Publishing.
To purchase Maligne, Valley of the Wicked River and Jasper...A Walk in the Past contact the Friends of Jasper National Park Bookstore.