BONOKOSKI: What if the beaver had a birthday and nobody came?

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BONOKOSKI: What if the beaver had a birthday and nobody came?
Author of the article:Mark Bonokoski
Publishing date:May 22, 2021 • 1 day ago • 3 minute read • 13 Comments
Cute swimming beaver in murky lake water.
Cute swimming beaver in murky lake water. PHOTO BY FILE PHOTO /Getty Images
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A couple of weeks ago, the beaver, that bucktoothed rodent that is Canada’s national animal, officially turned 46.

It’s birthday passed again without acknowledgement.


When it turned 25 in the year 2000, usually an anniversary worth huge celebration, the House of Commons made nary a mention of it.

Instead, it marked National Epilepsy Month, World Tuberculosis Day and Greek Independence Day.

But nary a word on the beaver.

I can lay claim to more than a modicum of infamy for the beaver being recognized as Canada’s national animal. Not the stately moose or the iconic polar bear, but a relative of a rat.

I apologize again, but a good story is a good story. So consider this a history lesson for the Gen X and Millennial crowd.

Despite the beaver adorning coats of arms and being the symbol on Canada’s first coinage, it was never officially recognized.

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I found this out in 1975 during my second year at the Toronto Sun when I read a wire story of a New York senator about to make it the state’s emblem and I turned up crickets on any link to Canada.

Not wanting to see Canada pipped at the post, I made contact with a young Hamilton-area MP named Sean O’Sullivan, who just happened to be the parliamentary secretary to Progressive Conservative opposition leader and former prime minister John Diefenbaker.

And we were off to the races.

O’Sullivan, a rising star in the party, put forward a private member’s bill, seconded by Joe Clark, to officially adopt the beaver as Canada’s national animal, and it passed into law in short order, hyped many evenings by Barbara Frum on the CBC radio’s As It Happens.

There was no Internet, of course, snail-mail only, and therefore no social media, But Frum was must-listen radio,

(My role in the beaver saga was chronicled in The Beaver Book and in O’Sullivan’s memoir, Between Two Houses. He left the Commons rather abruptly in 1977 to become a Roman Catholic priest and died of leukemia in 1989 at the age of 37.)

Since it is the Victoria Day weekend, I decided to leave politics and COVID-19 variants for another day.


So let’s move now to Porcupine Plain, Sask., Pop: 856, and home of mascot Quilly Willy — a strange place to visit during a Sunday read except for a recent theft of a stack of fence posts that was investigated by the local RCMP constabulary and made the national news.

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The missing fence posts were soon spotted in a nearby waterway.

As Const. Conrad Rickards from the Porcupine Plain RCMP said, “A beaver — or beavers — helped themselves to the stash of posts and used them to help build a dam.”

He jokingly said no charges will be laid.

“Who could really blame these little bucktooth bandits, considering the price of wood these days?” said Rickards, the quote sealing the deal for Porcupine Plain, a hamlet 70 km east of Tisdale and 91 km southwest of Hudson Bay, making the national news.

As CNN reported, random-length lumber futures hit a record high of $1,615 on the same day as the fence-post theft, a staggering sevenfold gain from the low in early April 2020. That’s a big deal because lumber is the most substantial supply that home builders buy.

Hence the long-winded story of my role in officially making the beaver our national animal.

It’s not much of a legacy, but it may merit a line or two when my obit is eventually written.

And there’s lots more where that came from.

matkbonokoski@gmail.com