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The Missing Canadian Symbol

My friend and colleague Dr. David Bird has been driving a movement to have a National Bird declared for Canada. Although many thought it was a done deal already, Canada has not yet declared a National Bird.

Starting in 2016, the community at large made their decision through a complex lobbying and voting exercise which spanned several months of planning and delivery. A clear winner was determined, but for various reasons, the federal government never followed up. It’s time to revitalize the endeavour and make this happen, and you can help!

In Canada, we do have many symbols officially recognizing our country.

The most obvious and prevalent is the Canadian flag, with its bold red and white colours and stylized Maple Leaf. It was declared our National Flag in 1965 after a 40-year debate. Recognized everywhere in the world, it’s a great attractive flag which showcases our country. Incidentally, the official colours of Canada are red and white as well.

Our Royal Coat of Arms recognizes the Monarchy and the oversight and influence it has on our lives. It was adopted by the proclamation of His Majesty King George V in 1921. Coincident with that is our National Motto, which we all know and recognize, “A Mari Usque Ad Mare” (from sea to sea), but maybe it should be more appropriately “A Mari Usque Ad Mare Usque Ad Mare” to reflect our three oceans.

Our National Anthem, “O Canada,” is respected by all and sung with pride. The original version has been modified several times to reflect our changing Canada. “O Canada” was proclaimed Canada’s National Anthem on July 1st, 1980, one century after it was first sung in the City of Québec, on June 24th, 1880.

Did you know we have two national sports? Lacrosse for the summer and ice hockey for the winter. We have a National Tree – the maple, which is not any specific species but a stylization of the ten species of maple which can be found across much of Canada.

We also have a National Mammal – the Beaver (declared in 1975), and a National Horse – the Canadian Horse (2002). Surprising to me, at least, we even have a National Tartan (2011) called the Maple Leaf Tartan.

But do you know what we don’t have? A National Bird! I opened this column with this revelation. A new book was released this year, by a Canadian publishing house, Hancock House Publishers, and is entitled The Canada Jay. The National Bird of Canada? to celebrate this move to finalize the project and declare the Canada Jay as our National Bird. Written by Dr. Bird and other noteworthy authors, such as Dan Strickland, who undoubtedly knows more about Canada Jays than, likely, anyone else in the world. It is an entertaining and fact-filled treatise which introduces the history of the search for a National Bird, and it intertwines English, Indigenous and Francophone influences into the story. In the book, an Indigenous author offers an Indigenous endorsement, when he states, the Canada Jay is deemed a Reconciliation Agent and Environmental Emissary.

Why should the Canada Jay be our National Bird, and why shouldn’t the Snowy Owl or Common Loon (which are already the symbols of Quebec and Ontario, respectively) be the top bird? The underlying thread is the Canada Jay lives and breeds almost entirely in Canada, is found coast to coast to coast, is entrenched in our entire history, from the time when only Indigenous peoples lived here through the fur-trading and industrial eras and into modern times.

So, is there something you, the reader, can do to help? Yes! You can remind the government we are overdue to have a National Bird which truly reflects the history, nature and value of Canada. Please go to or and sign the petition, and be part of history, to forever permit us to celebrate the Canada Jay.

Don’t forget to get your copy of The Canada Jay book, for $9.95, from Hancock House, Amazon or better book and nature stores.

Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

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