Canadian Conservative senators have blocked a bill approved by Justin Trudeau’s administration that would have made the country’s national anthem lyrics gender neutral and more inclusive of women.
The bill, which passed in the lower chamber of the Parliament last summer and had the government’s approval, has been struck down after a year-long effort by the Conservative opposition party, CBC News reported.
It tried to change the national anthem lyrics’ by altering the line “in all thy sons commands” to “in all of us command” in a bid to make the anthem more inclusive and remove gendered language from the anthem. It had been hoped by its backers the changed lyrics would be ready for Canada Day on July 1.
The opposition against the bill has been brewing over the last year – not only in Conservative circles. Liberal Senator Joan Fraser came out against the effort to change the anthem several months ago, saying “It’s a fine example of what happens when you let politicians meddle. Politicians are not usually poets.”
On Tuesday, Conservative Senator David Wells explained his successful attempt to stop the bill from going forward. “I’m trying to protect the tradition rather than, you know, water it down with a politically correct version that is historically inaccurate.
“I don’t misrepresent why I’m [using parliamentary stall tactics] … I don’t like this bill, and I will do what I can to ensure it doesn’t pass.”
He explained his opposition to the bill, saying national symbols shouldn’t be changed to the “flavor of the day” and added that the Canadians weren’t actually consulted on the possible change.
“I’ll be working my hardest to delay this bill until there’s a full debate,” Wells said. “I get a lot of emails, and many comments to me personally, from people who don’t want to see the anthem change, who see it as a part of our tradition and who see this attempt to change it as political correctness run amok. It is a slippery slope. Calls for inclusion will always be there, but my belief is all Canadians are already included in the national anthem.”
The Conservative senator also compared the bill with the paintings in the Senate showing men in combat during the First World War.
“Would we now airbrush females into those pictures to accurately reflect what it might be today with those pieces of Canadians’ history? My answer is no, that would be an abomination, and I think that’s what it is with the anthem as well.”
The bill, however, still has its proponents. Ramona Lumpkin, the president and vice-chancellor of Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, is said to have been disappointed that the effort to change the anthem was stalled.
“We’re so close and I really regret that there are a few senators who seem to have dug in and decided to delay. I hope it’s not a permanent block,” she told CBC News.
“It’s not as if the words were brought down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets like the Ten Commandments, they are words created by humans and subject to change as our social and cultural conditions change, and thank goodness they do.”
Lumpkin added: “I know language matters and I talk to students and young women regularly who still feel their voice doesn’t carry as strong as the voice of their male friends. I think the gesture, even though it’s symbolic, would say a lot to those young women.”