Canadian Senate poised to adopt ‘gender neutral’ national anthem
OTTAWA, Ontario, April 5, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Canada’s upper house is one step from neutering O Canada! by changing “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command,” but a vocal bipartisan minority of senators is opposing any change to the national anthem.
The bill’s late sponsor, MP Mauril Belanger, summed up his case: “On the eve of the 150th anniversary of our federation, it is important that one of our most recognized and appreciated national symbols reflect the progress made by our country in terms of gender equality.”
For Belanger and most in the Liberal and New Democratic Party caucuses, the offending passage speaks of an era when women could not vote at all, let alone be senators or MPs.
From a historical perspective, the anthem honors the 60,000-plus Canadians, virtually all male, who died in the First World War opposing German aggression. The line was added to the song’s English version just before that war began by its author, Robert Stanley Weir. Though O Canada! did not become Canada’s official anthem till 1980, it became so informally decades earlier.
Liberal Senator Joan Fraser called the revision “clunky, leaden and pedestrian.” Though she considers herself “an ardent feminist,” she has no time for efforts to revise an historic document to reflect “today's values.”
"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,” she told the Senate. “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.”
One of the revision’s most outspoken critics, Nova Scotia Conservative Senator Michael MacDonald, told the CBC, “If we are constantly revising everything because it was written in another generation, our national symbols will have no value. Our history means nothing in this country anymore, and it's a shame that we're doing this.”
When MacDonald spoke in the Senate late last year, he corrected the grammar (it should be “In all of our command” he insists) but devoted much more of his allotted time to wondering why only the English version of the anthem was considered for improvement in the names of “inclusion.”
“It is, without question, an ethnic French-Canadian, Catholic, nationalist battle hymn, certainly non-inclusive,” said MacDonald. “Yet I am not offended. It is just part of Canada's history in song.”
Among the references to the Christian faith is the line “car ton bras sait porter l’epee, it sait porter la croix.” (“because your arm knows how to carry a sword, it knows how to carry the cross.”) Commented CBC journalist Terry Milewski: “So we’re deep into ‘Onward, Christian soldiers’ territory. We're armed, and we're spreading the gospel of Jesus.”
The English version also contains a religious reference dating from 1980: “God keep our land glorious and free.” Christian commentators such as Toronto evangelist Charles McVety have warned, “The next step for revisionists will be to remove ‘God,’ ‘wield the sword,’ ‘carry the cross’ and ‘valour steeped in faith’ from the anthems. Canada's national anthems are precious to the foundation of the country and should not be changed.”
The bill could receive third and final reading any day now or it could be delayed if more members wish to speak to it.
An online poll last year showed 85 percent opposition to changing the anthem.