Idle No More: Defacing Currency


Thank you to West Coast Native News for
republishing this article on their website.


As emotions begin to run high on both sides of the Idle No More movement, some people are beginning to run afoul of the law.  This isn’t what the four founders of the Idle No More intended to have happen to this movement.  This was always meant to be a peaceful protest against Bill C-45 and its implications.  This was always meant to focus on two goals:   Indigenous sovereignty (Nation to Nation relationship) and protection of the land and water (Social and Environmental Sustainability).

This afternoon, more than a few people on Facebook began sharing an unattributed photograph along with comments encouraging others to deface Canadian paper money.

Defaced Money_Image From Facebook_No Attribution

Not being a lawyer, I can’t say whether this is lawful or unlawful, but being someone who prefers to take the more collaborative and cooperative path to resolve problems, I have to say that I was very concerned with what was being suggested to others.

I took the time to read the Currency Act, the Bank of Canada Act and the Bills of Exchange Act to see what the law has to say about coins and notes (currency) as it pertains to Canada.  The Currency Act states clearly that “[t]he monetary unit of Canada is the dollar.”

Even though the Canadian dollar is now a coin known affectionately as a loonie, the fact of the matter is that long before the loonie came into existence, the dollar was a legal tender note.  It was paper money.

From what I understand from the Currency Act and the Bank of Canada Act, any legal tender in Canada is considered a legal document. The Bank of Canada Act states that legal tender is a “valid and binding obligation of the Bank” which technically makes notes a legal document.

So what does defacing entail?  The term can be used with respect to individuals or documents, and refers to the destruction or spoiling of the appearance of document or individuals. Defacing a document means that the document is rendered illegible — in part or in whole — by injuring the face of the document.

The usefulness, value, and/or effect of a legal document is lost when the  document is defaced.

Now, do I feel that the defacing portrayed in the photo above renders the legal tender illegible in part?  No.  But I do feel that it’s a disrespectful course of action.

Can I stop anyone from defacing legal tender in this way? No.  But I would hope that people will stop to consider what they are doing before taking pen to a five, or ten, or even twenty dollar bill.

No good can come from defacing legal documents, even when it’s just paper money we’re talking about.  Some might consider the scribbling and doodling nothing more than a childish prank meant to annoy others, but others will be heartily offended which could lead to negative stereotypes being further ingrained in the minds and hearts of some.

Let’s move forward with Idle No More as the four founders of this movement wish … moving towards peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.  Messages of aggressiveness and passive-aggressiveness are contrary to the message of peace that is at the core of the Idle No More movement.

And whether defacing legal tender is against the law and actionable, choose to walk away from these sorts of actions.  Choose to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Elyse Bruce


6 Responses to “Idle No More: Defacing Currency”

  1. renaissanzelady Says:

    Thank you for cautioning us to avoid this senseless act of vandalism. Personally I have always been opposed to vandalism, defacing or harming property that is not ours. Vandalism is a waste of resources and disrespectful.

  2. The Rambler Says:

    I had similar thoughts when I read about the John A. Macdonald monument in Kingston being defaced on his birthday recently. But in that case, I also wondered, since no one took responsibility, if it was a government agent at work, or at least someone sympathetic to the government. Attempts will be made to discredit the movement, and attacks on national symbols could be viewed as an effective way to turn public sentiment against Idle No More.

    • Elyse Bruce Says:

      Regardless of who did the defacing of the statue, it was wrong to do that. With no clues as to who may have done it and no one claiming responsibility, it’s hard to know what the agenda was behind this criminal act. I’d hate to think it was someone hoping to discredit the Idle No More movement just as much as I’d hate to think it was someone claiming to be part of the Idle No More movement. There’s no good reason for acts of vandalism.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts on this topic to the blog article, The Rambler. As always, your insights are welcome on this site. 🙂

      • The Rambler Says:

        You’re welcome, and please call me Doug. I kinda like the sound of “The Rambler” as my blogging persona, but it sounds really awkward when someone calls me that 🙂

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