Canada’s national anthem is one of the more memorable anthems. From its opening notes, “O Canada” grabs the listener to immediately follow up with “our home and native land” — even if that’s the only line you remember. But if you don’t know all the words, now’s your chance to catch up. Canada’s just changed “O Canada” to be gender neutral.
The line “True patriot love in all thy sons command” has been adjusted to “True patriot love in all of us command.” The change comes after a bill passed the House of Commons in June 2016, 225 to 74. The bill was introduced by Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger. Thought Bélanger lived to see the final vote, unfortunately, he passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease before the change was made.
The vote was surprisingly contentious. Conservative senators were generally against the bill. There was 18 months of debate over the bill, though this Tuesday, Independent Ontario Sen. Francis Larkin, who sponsored Bélanger’s bill, introduced a motion to immediately vote on the bill — which passed in a near unanimous voice vote.
Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos was one of the voices critical of Larkin’s motion. He said, “When a majority of individuals decide to shut down discourse in this place, democracy dies. We need to be very wary of tools that muzzle debate … that is the fundamental right you have, to get up and speak on any piece of legislation, none of us have the right to take that away.”
Unfortunately for the Conservatives, they boycotted the vote on Lankin’s motion, causing them to miss the final vote. The vote ended up being attended mostly by Independent and Liberal senators, who were largely in favor of changing the lyrics.
However, not every Conservative voice was against the change. Retired senator Nancy Ruth introduced a similar bill 10 years ago, and was in the chamber to see the current bill finally pass. She told the CBC, “I’m feeling excited, and thrilled, and the Independents are fabulous.”
Since 1980, when “O Canada” became the country’s official anthem, 12 bills have been introduced to make the song gender neutral. “O Canada” was written in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir. Oddly enough, the original line was “thou dost in us command,” though Weir changed it to “in all thy sons command” shortly before World War I.
Featured image by kate_sept2004 via iStock