Saturday, October 29, 2011

Beaver vs. Polar Bear

Odd how polar bears have become the theme of this week, but there it is. Now we have a motion by Conservative Senator Nicole Eaton to replace the beaver with the polar bear as Canada’s official emblem.

I just have to say at the outset – is this simply Eaton’s attempt to get 5 minutes of the spotlight? Recognizing that being a Senator is a thankless, mostly invisible, albeit well-paid job, maybe she was looking for something she could do that would put her name in the press. Or maybe she just has a thing for polar bears – or a vendetta against beavers.

She came out pretty strong against our official emblem, calling the beaver a “dentally defective rat”, a “toothy tyrant” and a “19th century has-been”. In contrast, she describes the polar bear as Canada’s “most majestic and splendid mammal”. Oddly, a little more than a year ago she stated in a speech that the beaver “fittingly occupies a prominent place on [Canada’s] coat of arms”. Perhaps since last June she had a run in with a hostile beaver.

While the government has stated that it has no intention of changing our national emblem (indeed, why would they want to draw any extra attention to the state of the polar bears and the northern ecosystem?) this story has gained some traction.

National Post Illustrator Steve Murray notes that the polar bear “lives in icy, snowy conditions” making it “ideal as a representative for Canada since we don’t get enough ice and snow jokes.”

Andrew Derocher, Biological Sciences Professor at the University of Alberta (shown in photo), pointed out in a debate on CBC’s ‘Power and Politics’ that people pay good money to go on tours to see polar bears, but who’s going to pay to drive around looking at beavers?

A Toronto Star editorial notes that it would be rather “hawkish” to adopt as an emblem an animal which eats its young, as opposed to the mate-for-life beavers who share responsibility for raising young.

I, for one, see no need to remove the beaver as emblem. I may be a big fan of polar bears, but let’s keep as our emblem our homely, industrial rodent.

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