I was at the Winnipeg Goldeyes Stadium this week. We sang the national anthem before the game. Perhaps because I’ve been living outside of Canada for six years and haven’t heard the song O Canada very often I was struck by the fact it still contains the line ‘in all our sons’ command.’ In a day and age of political correctness and equal opportunities for men and women shouldn’t that line have been altered ages ago?
I did a little research and found out there have been various initiatives to try to make the song more gender neutral.
In 2002 Senator Vivienne Poy from Ontario introduced a bill to change ‘in all our sons’ command to ‘ in all of us command’. During its third reading in the Senate the bill was defeated.
When Governor General Michaelle Jean read the speech from the throne in March 2010 she announced the government’s plan to appoint a commission to look into the possibility of changing the words of the national anthem back to their original form as written by Stanley Weir in 1908. They would read ‘ thou dost in us command’. However just two days after the speech CBC carried a story saying the national anthem would not change because 75% of Canadians polled after the throne speech objected to any tampering with the text of the national anthem.
I am very surprised at that result. I realize that changing the words of a song may not be the most important thing on the agenda when it comes to providing equal opportunities and support for women but it would be a start. When I think of all the little school girls who sing O Canada every morning and in doing so pay lip service to the idea that only Canada’s sons and not her daughters are responsible for their country’s well-being and future it makes me sad and disappointed.
Perhaps a solution is to use the words by Mercy E. Powell McCulloch. In 1908 Collier’s Weekly held a contest inviting citizens to pen new words for our national anthem. First prize went to a woman, Ms. McCulloch. I really like her stirring text which emphasizes Canada’s beauty. This is Ms. McCulloch’s O Canada.
O Canada! in praise of thee we sing:
From echoing hills our anthems proudly ring.
With fertile plains and mountains grand
With lakes and rivers clear,
Eternal beauty, thou dost stand
Throughout the changing year.
Lord God of Hosts! We now implore
Bless our dear land this day and evermore,
Bless our dear land this day and evermore.