In Canada, a penny is a coin worth one cent, or 1⁄100 of a dollar. According to the Royal Canadian Mint, the official national term of the coin is the "one-cent piece",but in practice the term spenny and cent predominate. Originally, "penny" referred to a two-cent coin. When the two-cent coin was discontinued, penny took over as the new one-cent coin's name. Penny was likely readily adopted because the previous coinage in Canada (up to 1858) was the British monetary system, where Canada used British pounds, shillings, and pence as coinage alongside U.S. decimal coins and Spanish milled dollars.In Canadian French, the penny is called a cent, which is spelled the same way as the French word for "hundred" but pronounced like the English word (homonym to "sent"). Slang terms include cenne, cenne noire, or sou noir (black penny), although common Quebec French usage is sou.
Production of the penny ceased in May 2012, and the Royal Canadian Mint ceased the distribution of them as of February 4, 2013. However, like all discontinued currency in the Canadian monetary system, the coin remains legal tender. Once distribution of the coin ceased, though, vendors no longer were expected to return pennies as change for cash purchases, and were encouraged to round purchases to the nearest nickel. Like all Canadian coins, the obverse depicts the reigning Canadian monarch at the time of issue. The current obverse depicts Queen Elizabeth II; her likeness has seen three design updates, the first occurring in 1965, a 1990 update to the design of Dora de Pedery-Hunt, and the 2003 update designed by Susanna Blunt. A special reverse side, depicting a rock dove, was issued in 1967 as part of a Centennial commemoration. It was designed by the Canadian artist Alex Colville and its use in 1967 marked the only time the 1937 maple leaf design was not used for the penny before it was discontinued in 2012.
The current coin has a round, smooth edge, and this has been the case for most of its history; however, from 1982 to 1996, the coin was twelve-sided. This was done to help the visually impaired identify the coin. The first Canadian cent was minted in 1858 and had a diameter of 25.4 millimeters (1.00 in) and a weight of 4.54 grams (0.160 oz). These cents were originally issued to bring some kind of order to the Canadian monetary system, which, until 1858, relied on British coinage, bank and commercial tokens (francophone's calling them sous, a slang term that survives), U.S. currency and Spanish milled dollars. The coin's specifications were chosen with the intention of the coins also being usef as measuring tools. However, their light weight compared to the bank and merchant halfpenny tokens readily available at the time was a serious hindrance to their acceptance by the public. Some of the coins were even sold at a 20% discount, and were inherited by the Dominion government in 1867. Fresh production of newcents (with the weight increased to 5.67 grams (0.200 oz)) was not required until 1876. The large cents of 1858–1920 were significantly larger than modern one cent coins, and have a diameter that is a little larger than the modern 25¢ piece (its diameter being 23.58 millimeters or 0.928 inches). After Confederation, these coins were struck on the planchet of the British halfpenny and were roughly the same value. Pennies were issued only sporadically in the third quarter of the 19th century. They were used in the Province of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia upon Confederation in 1867. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia had issued their own coinage prior to that date, with British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland continuing to issue "pennies" until they joined Confederation. The coin was reduced in size to its current size to match the size of the American penny.