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Canada $100 Bill Controversy: Bank Of Canada Apologizes After Accusations Of Racism

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* Picture of Asian woman on banknote removed after complaints

* Bank of Canada makes rare apology, first since 2003

OTTAWA, Aug 20 (Reuters) - In an unusual move, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney apologized on Monday for bank note changes that prompted critics to accuse the central bank of racism.

The initial design for the new C$100 note featured a picture of an Asian woman but this was scrapped after focus groups expressed concern Asians should not be the only ethnic group represented.

When the bill was released into circulation last year, the Asian woman had been removed and replaced by a woman who looked to be Caucasian, prompting complaints from Chinese groups and media commentators.

In the bank's first formal apology in nearly a decade, Carney said the Bank had never intended bank notes to feature people who represented only one ethnic group.

"I apologize to those who were offended. The Bank's handling of this issue did not meet the standards Canadians justifiably expect of us," he said in a statement.

"We will be reviewing our design process in light of these events. Our bank notes belong to all Canadians."

The issue of minorities is sensitive in Canada, which has a sizeable Chinese population.

Carney said the image shown to focus groups had been photoshopped from a picture of a South Asian woman.

The last time a Bank of Canada Governor issued a statement of apology was in October 2003, when David Dodge said he had wrongly attributed U.S. growth forecasts to then Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

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