Bid to make O’ Canada lyrics gender neutral opposed by Tories

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A Liberal backbencher’s bid to make O Canada more gender neutral by replacing the reference to “all thy sons” with “all of us” in the English lyrics seems set for defeat after several Conservative MPs — including the parliamentary secretary to the heritage minister — spoke out against it. In an impassioned address to a sparsely populated House of Commons, Ottawa Vanier Liberal MP Mauril Belanger argued that the change was not just necessary, but overdue.

“There are many reasons we would want to sing “in all of us command,'” he noted.

“We love our country and all its people. Our anthem is important to us and we want it to clearly include every Canadian. All of us are proud to sing O Canada, and O Canada should embrace all of us.” The “two words” he wants to change “are small, yet meaningful,” Belanger argued, and “would ensure that more than 18 million Canadian women are included in our national anthem.” Belanger noted the current wording, which dates to 1913, is thought to have been a response to the events leading up to the First World War.

But he pointed out that many women contributed to the war effort as well — not as soldiers, but in other functions, particularly nurses — and many died as well. “We have commemorated them in Parliament’s Hall of Honour,” he said, “[but] not in our anthem.”  In fact, he noted, his suggested rewording would actually bring it closer to the earlier, pre-1913 version: “Thou dost in us command.”

“We can restore words that were written and sung 107 years ago,” he said. “We should not fear such a change.” It would also ensure the anthem respects the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, Belanger added.

But Conservative MP Costas Menegakis, who serves as parliamentary secretary to Canadian Heritage Minister Shelly Glover, was unmoved. A country’s national anthem “is very important to national identity,” he argued. “It represents a legacy passed down from our predecessors.” Menegakis reminded MPs that his own government had briefly considered updating the wording of the anthem — even going so far as to include it in the 2010 Speech from the Throne — only to find strong public opposition to the move. “It was a clear indication that Canadians love their anthem, and want to see it kept as is,” he recalled.

Menegakis pointed to a 2013 study that, he said, found 65 per cent of Canadians opposed changing the words. “How can we possibly support this bill after that clear message?” he wondered. “Canadians across our country, men and women alike, are against the change and have voiced that. Supporting this bill would be telling them, loudly and clearly, that what the majority of Canadians want does not matter and that their opinions do not matter to the government.” (CBCNews)


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