Thursday, November 24, 2011

Canada's National Symbol: The Beaver (IMG00513)

When I was growing up in Hong Kong, a primary school music teacher taught me this song:

Land of the silver birch
Home of the beavers
Where still the might moose
Wonders at will
Blue lakes and rocky shore
I'll return once more
Bonne d-dee i-dee
Bonne d-dee i-dee
Bonne !!

At the time, I had never seen neither a beaver nor a moose and had no clue where this land was.

Many years later, when I was working as a labourer for Canadian National Railway (CNR) near Prince Rupert, I would be humming the tune as I and other steel-gang members were sweating away, replacing old tracks with ribbon-rails under the hot summer sun in the wilderness of northern British Columbia. It was there and then that I finally appreciated the beautiful imagery conjured up by the song and what it meant to be a part of nature in this vast northern country.

This photo is commercially tacky. But the symbol it represents is not.


UPDATED: 2011-11-24: Canada's National Symbol - The Beaver or Polar Bear ?

"Bear takes lead over beaver in battle for online world’s hearts and tweets" by Tamsin McMahon, National Post, Nov 5, 2011 11h00

The polar bear has taken the lead in the online battle that has pitted the man-eating mammal against the beaver in the quest to redefine Canada’s national emblem.

Two weeks ago, Conservative Senator Nicole Eaton caused a stir when she suggested that Canada should turf the beaver as its national symbol and replace it with what she called “Canada’s most majestic and splendid mammal.” That sparked a fierce debate, including on Twitter, which quickly organized itself into #teambeaver and #teampolarbear. Online at least, the polar bear is winning, according to an analysis by Toronto-based market research firm Social Media Group for National Post.

The endangered northern bear has garnered slightly more positive comments on Facebook, Twitter, Internet message boards and blog posts than the ubiquitous vegetarian beaver since Ms. Eaton made her pitch for the polar bear on Oct. 27. It was a reversal of fortune for the beaver, which had been the favourite of the two animals on the blogosphere for most of the year.

Among those who preferred the beaver, 26% described it as a “noble animal,” while 18% called it “industrious.” Within the anti-beaver camp, 31% called it “destructive,” while 17% said the beaver was an “outdated symbol” and another 11% felt it was “anti-social.” Nearly three-quarters of polar bear supporters felt it was a “majestic mammal,” while 4% described the bear as “alarmingly handsome.” Among the anti-bear set, 26% noted its tendency to kill humans, while 21% highlighted the fact that it was endangered. Another 11% noted that unlike the beaver, the polar bear does “not build anything.”

The polar bear seems to have recovered from its public relations disaster in August, when one of the bears attacked a British youth group on a remote Norwegian island in the arctic, killing one. “They might be cute, but they have a nasty habit of killing people sometimes and usually when they do that, people don’t like them very much,” said Brandon Oliver Smith, an analyst with Social Media Group.

Canada never held a referendum on its national symbol when Parliament chose the beaver in 1975, and that decision has been causing us trouble ever since, said Duke Redbird, an acclaimed native poet who has studied and lectured on totems, or symbols. For one, Mr. Redbird notes that the rodent has a tendency to cut down Canada’s other national symbol, the maple tree, a conflict that he argues is reflected in the country’s real-life political tensions. “We’ve had this before in Canada between the French and the English,” he said. “When you choose a totem, you really and truly will take on the characteristics of the totem that you choose.” The beaver’s tendency to dam up streams and creeks has negative connotations for “damming up your creativity, your imagination, your ability to move in a new world,” Mr. Redbird said. The U.S. national symbol, the eagle, is a natural predator for the beaver. But as an endangered species, the polar bear also sends the wrong message for a country marching proudly into the 21st century, he said.

Mr. Redbird prefers the otter, whose affable nature and rare ability to use tools to capture its prey symbolizes intelligence and bravery.


the inner space said...

As hardworking as the beaver! they building dams for their habitat!

Haricot 微豆 said...

SBB: Thus the expression "beavering away" which means working diligently, as in: I am beavering away to make hay while the sun shines.

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