Bank of Canada kills editorial cartoon, calls it "counterfeiting"

Canadian Conservative senator Mike Duffy is in disgrace over the news that he submitted fraudulent expense claims totalling $90,000 and secretly borrowed a like sum from the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff to pay it (and kill an auditor's investigation into his conduct). So Dan Murphy drew an editorial cartoon depicting a notional Canadian $90,000 bill bearing Senator Duffy's leering face. But the toon only ran briefly, because the Bank of Canada threatened Canadian newspapers with criminal prosecution for counterfeiting if they ran it.

That gets to the crux of the matter. Laws that fight counterfeiting are fine (though really, any forger gifted enough to back-engineer a single-sided cartoon of a $90,000 bill that bears the image of Mike Duffy and a hologram of Nigel Wright deserves a medal, not jail time) but the Bank of Canada has no business playing Thought Police.

Parodies of bank notes are nothing new. In 1819, British cartoonist George Cruikshank, angered after seeing a woman hanged for passing a forged note, drew a Bank of England note that featured 11 men and women dangling from nooses. During the currency panic of 1837, a series of “shin plasters” — typically five- and six-cent bills — poked fun at U.S. economic policy.

Jack Knox: The ($90,000) Duffy buck stops here, Bank of Canada decides [Jack Knox/Times Colonist] (Thanks, Derryl!)


  1. I thought Duffy was actually gifted that money, and apparently borrowed it from a bank as well?  Anyways, aside from playing totalitarian oppressor,  the not so subtle message is ‘we control and own all Canadian money’;  so any visual manipulation using actual currency is seen as an egregious affront by the bank.  They may yet regret showing their (invisible?) hand here, banks are usually expert in the use of lackeys, surprising. Worst of all of course is those newspapers knuckling under;  surely no court in the land would support this case.  Sometimes I think we as Canadians truly are too polite for our own good.

    1. The linked article shows that the paper is being polite but is not backing down.  They have sent a response asking what specifically the problem is.

      1. And that would be a reasonable response were it a question of civil liability. I think the proper response to bogus threats of untenable and even frivolous *criminal* complaints is “come at me bro”.  There is a higher bar to get over and a more serious downside for the aggressor in such a situation.

        IANAL, so don’t take my word for it however.

        1. The flip side of that is that when the government is coming after you they have a lot more power than a private enterprise.

  2. There’s no plausible case for forgery and the BoC knows it. From the the Criminal Code:

    366. (1) Every one commits forgery who makes a false document, knowing it to be false, with intent(a) that it should in any way be used or acted on as genuine, to the prejudice of any one whether within Canada or not; or(b) that a person should be induced, by the belief that it is genuine, to do or to refrain from doing anything, whether within Canada or not.

    Dear BoC: please explain how you can demonstrate intent to satisfy either of those two criteria. 

    Dear Newspapers: don’t give in to such feeble attempts. The threat is pathetic, but caving-in to such a threat is even more pathetic.

  3. I’d say it’s pretty clear these orders came from Dear Leader himself. The Harper gov’t has no issues  with using civil servants to do their dirty work.

  4. A small correction to your headline. The bank did not call this counterfeiting. It called it a “copyright violation”.

    1. I would point out that the letter’s author opens with this paragraph:

      “My name is Sophie Jenkins and I am a senior analyst with the Bank of Canada’s anti-counterfeiting compliance program.”

      She goes on to say:

      “Please be advised that the reproduction of bank note images is protected by the Criminal Code and the Copyright Act.”

      The signature block of her letter only identifies her as:

      “Senior Analyst” / “Compliance”

      If her position’s title is no more specific than “Senior Analyst – Compliance”, why did she include anti-counterfeiting in the introduction? What was the intent?

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