National Beaver Day is celebrated by the Nova Scotia Association of Architects who reacted 20 years ago to a request by the CBC's Peter Gzowski to name a new holiday. Though it started as a lark, National Beaver Day has now blossomed into something a little more meaningful, although still a fun event for the architects.
The beaver, of course, has been a symbol of the good and bad of Canadians. The well-known member of the rodent family is industrious, uses natural materials in its concern for the environment, builds well engineered structures and is indigenous to all provinces and territories in Canada.
However, it also sometimes feels threatened by developers, at times finds it hard to keep its head above water and, like Canadians living in Quebec, is an endangered species.
The beaver was adopted as a symbol by the architects because, by its very nature, it's an engineer, architect and general contractor. The beaver was the first to recognize one of Canada's greatest resources -- water -- and has worked hard to preserve it. It's been emblazoned on the nickel, something every Canadian owns even though some may not have two to rub together.
Halifax architect Ted Brown has spearheaded the drive for National Beaver Day. "We're in the 20th year of continuing our quest to have it named an official holiday," he said. "There's no national holiday between January 1 and Easter. It would be great for national unity. And it doesn't have to be a full day. A half day would do because, after all, the beaver is industrious and wouldn't want to take a lot of time off."
Seven years ago, Brown wrote then-Halifax member of Parliament Stu McInnes seeking his support for National Beaver Day. McInnes forwarded the letter to Tom McMillen, then-environment minister and responsible for Heritage Day, the third Monday in February which honours the country's diversification. (Heritage Day was proclaimed 20 years ago but the federal government has never recognized it as a national holiday),
The response was polite but not positive, and Brown laughed when he said: "You'll notice they were quickly defeated after they refused to support the beaver."
He said Canadians need something lighter but are afraid to appear frivolous. His group holds an annual luncheon on National Beaver Day at which the Order of the Beaver Award is presented to the Nova Scotia Association of Architects. Bruce MacKinnon, editorial cartoonist for The Chronicle-Herald and The Mail Star, received it in the late 1980s for his many depictions of the beaver as the downtrodden Canadian.
The association also presents its Beaver Droppings Award, won last year by Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau for continuing to tear the country apart.
"We are having a good time but realize the seriousness of some of the beaver's work," said Brown. "Use of the beaver's pelt as currency for more than 100 years led to the settlement of Canada. And by building dams, the beaver is protecting our water supply and conserving water."
Today, while you sit in your office or go about your chores like an "eager beaver," think of what this day could be -- National Beaver Day. And remember, said Brown, "you can lead a beaver to water -- but he'll probably dam it."
-- Joel Jacobson: The Chronicle Herald; February 24th, 1995