Once again, the debate is on about changing our national symbol from the beaver... this time to the polar bear, as proposed by Sen. Nicole Eaton.
Although the Sun is editorially (and foolishly, if you ask me) committed to the beaver as our national symbol, I was arguing 30 years ago that a buck-toothed rodent was an unfortunate choice for Canada. No argument, the beaver was important in the opening up Canada as gritty hunters probed the unknown to trap the critters for pelts.
But is that sufficient reason to make it Canada's national symbol?
Historical significance aside, the beaver is a destructive animal, indiscriminately gnawing down trees, without a thought as to where they fall. Beaver dams block rivers and streams which can be harmless, but also can alter the landscape and cause flooding of arable lands.
Nor is the beaver handsome, with an admirable personality. The polar bear, of course, is alarmingly handsome and resolute -- the world's largest land carnivore you don't want to mess with.
My choice for a national symbol 30 years ago -- and remains so today -- is the Canada Goose. Critics fret that Canada Geese are a nuisance in parks, that they are messy, and take over areas, like grubby Wall Street occupiers.
But the Canada goose has a curious nobility. Unlike the polar bear, it's comfortable throughout in Canada. It is monogamous, loyal, brave and hard to intimidate.
These are all characteristics to which a nation like Canada should aspire. The Canada Goose is also handsome and intelligent.
Were it not for the reality that the beaver has long been associated with Canada, the Canada Goose would be a natural choice.
But a rodent representing Canada? Ugh.
The U.S. national symbol is the bald eagle -- a magnificent, haughty, imperious, beautiful bird that radiates pride but... is really a scavenger, feeds on carrion and dead things that other animals (or birds) kill. Even rotting fish.
Other eagles and hawks kill their own food. The bald eagle is a sort of garbage collector on beaches and rivers. But it's not noble like, say, the golden eagle.
Some countries have several animals or birds as national symbols. Are these chosen because they are associated with the country, or because citizens aspire to embody their characteristics? Maybe a bit of both. A lot of countries have the lion as a symbol: Britain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Eritrea. Liberia, Libya, Macedonia, Morocco, Ethiopia, Luxembourg, Sweden, the Netherlands. Kind of common.
Many favour one of various eagles: Albania, Angola, Zambia, Austria, Germany, Nigeria, Panama, Philippines, Poland.
The wolf is the symbol for Italy, Serbia, Portugal and Turkey. Bermuda's symbol is the humpback whale; Angola, the frigate bird; Nepal and Guernsey, the cow; Denmark, the swan; Iran and Somalia, the leopard; Iceland, the falcon; Ireland, the stag or wolfhound; Kuwait, the camel; Australia, the kangaroo; France, the rooster; Mexico the Chihuahua; India the tiger and cobra; Cuba the crocodile. And so it goes.
You decide which country's characteristics match their animal symbol.
Canada is the only country that honours the beaver. While it's not a big issue with me, the beaver is a bit embarrassing. Not as embarrassing as if I were from Lebanon where the hyena is thus honoured -- or the cow, as in Nepal.
No, I'll stick with the Canada Goose: brave, loyal, confident, daring.
Not bad national traits.