Canada’s National Anthem May Go Gender-Neutral

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By Ian Miles Cheong | 5:10 pm, April 4, 2017
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A bill is advancing through the Canadian Parliament to alter the words of the Canadian national anthem to be more “inclusive” by stripping it of gendered language.

Conservative Canadian senators are largely opposed to Bill C-210, which was first introduced in June 2016 by the late Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger. Among the alterations, he proposed changing the phrase “all thy sons command,” with “all of us command.” Politicians opposed to the bill describe the changes as “clunky” and “pedestrian.”

Liberal Senator Joan Fraser is among those on the left who joined her conservative counterparts to oppose the bill. “It’s a fine example of what happens when you let politicians meddle. Politicians are not usually poets,” she said.

Conservative Senator Michael McDonald called the replacement “sloppy” and urged its defeat.

“If we are constantly revising everything because it was written in another generation, our national symbols will have no value,” he said to CBC News. “Our history means nothing in this country anymore, and it’s a shame that we’re doing this. The Senate should not be reticent in defending and preserving the heritage of Canada.”

He also raised issue with the bill for applying changes only to the English version of the national anthem, and said that the French version would have difficulty getting the “social justice warrior seal of approval.”

The song is riddled with references to God, faith, church and race. I won’t go into the various sentiments articulated throughout the several French verses, save to say that the French version of “O Canada” would have a hard time today getting the social justice warrior seal of approval. It is, without question, an ethnic French Canadian, Catholic, nationalist battle hymn, certainly non-inclusive, yet I am not offended. It is just part of Canada’s history in song. As far as I’m concerned, they should leave it alone forever. But if our new-age censors can leave it alone without a second thought, how then can the phrase, “All thy sons command” be considered excessively problematic?

The bill has reached its third reading in the Senate and is awaiting a final vote. With widespread support from Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government and the third-party New Democrats, the bill previously passed the House of Commons with mainly Conservative opposition. If approved by the Senate, it will become law. Proponents of the bill wish to see it implemented before July 1, when Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary of confederation.

Fraser called the amendments to the anthem inappropriate, as it erases Canadian history.

“If we are to become engrossed in the idea that we must at all times be correctly modern, we lose a part of our heritage,” Fraser said. “It may not be a perfect heritage—I’m not suggesting it is—but it is ours. I suggest that it deserves respect and acceptance for what it is: imperfect but our own.”

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.