Tag Archives: o canada

Proud of the New Words to Canada’s National Anthem

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir  (Photo by Vincent Ethier/COC)

Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue are household names to Canadians who watched coverage of the Olympic games in South Korea. The figure skating duo jointly carried Canada’s flag as our athletes marched into the Pyeongchang Stadium for the opening ceremonies.

They also won their second gold medal in the ice dance competition eight years after claiming their first gold at the Vancouver Olympics. The pair set a record for the highest score ever for their sport and became the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history. Canadians can be rightly proud of these two outstanding Olympians for their athletic achievements. But I’m proud of them for another reason as well.

 In a Toronto Star interview Tessa and Scott talked about how happy they were to sing the new lyrics to O Canada when the anthem was played after their gold medal win. Scott said, “It was important for us to set a tone by belting out the new lyrics after our victory. We are so proud of Canada for making this change. It’s 2018. It’s about time.” Scott thought the fact a man and a woman jointly carried our flag at the opening ceremonies, illustrated the recent change to one line of Canada’s anthem from “in all thy sons’ command” to “in all of us command”.

 I have long advocated for this change and have now published four newspaper columns on the topic.  I first wrote about it in 2002 when I was inspired by the vision of a Steinbach woman Sybil Shaw Hamm. She was collecting signatures for a petition to send to Ottawa in support of Senator Vivian Poy who had introduced a Senate motion to change the word ‘sons’ in O Canada.

“Thousands of little girls are being told they are not important every time they stand to sing the anthem” said Sybil in a media interview. Ultimately Senator Poy’s motion to change the wording was defeated.

O Canada the former version in English, French and Inuktutuk

I wrote about the topic again in 2016 after the House of Commons passed a bill sponsored by the late member of Parliament Mauril Belanger to change the sexist line of the anthem to its present gender- neutral alternative. This time I was responding to my fellow newspaper columnist Michael Zwaagstra who advocated for a national referendum on the change. I pointed out the words of the anthem had been changed many times in the past without a referendum. In fact, the currently contentious line had only had the word ‘sons’ added in 1914, as a way to counteract the influence of a vocal group of suffragettes lobbying for women’s right to vote.

I wrote about the topic again in 2017 when local senator Don Plett introduced an amendment to the bill as a way to try to stymie its passage in the Senate. He didn’t want to change the words because they were “an important reminder of the past.” I said the word ‘sons’ did reflect a past when women weren’t persons in Canada. They were their husbands’ and fathers’ property. They couldn’t vote and their contributions went largely unrecognized. Thankfully times had changed and so should the words of our anthem.

Of course I am overjoyed that despite Mr. Plett’s efforts the bill did pass the Senate. The changes to the anthem became law on February 7 just in time for the new version to be used at the Winter Olympics.

Language is a very powerful thing. I am proud that on the international stage our now inclusive national anthem reflected the fact that our Olympic athletes come from a country where both the contributions of men and women are recognized and respected.

Thing 2–  One of the eight things I do each day here in Portugal is work on a piece of writing I know will be published or I would like to have published.  This newspaper column was one of them.  It was published yesterday in the Carillon.   Other publishing projects I’ve worked on besides writing my regular columns include spending time rewriting some meditations that will be published this summer and doing publicity forms for another Chicken Soup story of mine that will be published in a book in spring.  I am also working on edits to the first draft of a manuscript for a middle grade novel I want to submit to an editor when I get home, and I am writing more submission letters for a picture book I have finished and am hoping to get published. In addition I am working on another picture book manuscript and adding more short stories to a collection I’m writing about growing up in the 50s and 60s.  

Other posts……..

The Famous Five

Are You This Determined to Vote?

From Pale and Weak to Platoon Commander


Leave a comment

Filed under Canada, Music

An Inclusive O Canada

canada flag public domain

“Thousands of little girls are being told they are not important every time they stand up to sing it.”   I used that quote in my newspaper column in The Carillon in March of 2002. I was advocating for a change to more inclusive language in Canada’s national anthem.

My column came at a time when Vivienne Poy had introduced a motion in Canada’s senate to have the words of the anthem ‘in all our sons command’ changed to ‘in all of us command.’ Her motion was defeated. Now fourteen years later the Senator’s suggested change will become a reality thanks to Mauril Belanger, a longtime Liberal Member of Parliament who drafted the legislation that will make the words of our national anthem include all citizens. Parliament passed Belanger’s bill on June 15. After the legislation receives approval from the Senate it will become law.

My 2002 column recognized the work being done by a Steinbach woman Sybil Shaw Hamm. She had started a petition supporting the proposed changes to the anthem. In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press Sybil said she was trying to garner as many signatures as possible for her petition before sending it off to Senator Poy. Sybil wanted the senator to know there were people in Manitoba who supported her move to have the lyrics of the anthem altered. It was Sybil who gave me the quote that begins this column. Sybil went on to say she wanted her granddaughters not to feel left out when they sang the national anthem. In a wonderful piece she wrote for CBC radio Sybil speculated how people might respond if the anthem’s lyrics were changed to ‘in all our daughters’ command.’

In last week’s Carillon newspaper, columnist Michael Zwaagstra, the former President of the Provencher Conservative Association, stated that public hearings needed to be held before changes were made to the anthem. One has to wonder why public consultation on inclusive anthem language is required, when during the last election Zwaagstra’s party felt another important feminist social issue; that of murdered and missing aboriginal women, needed no further public inquiry.

O Canada in English, French and Inuktutuk

O Canada in English, French and Inuktutuk

Zwaagstra’s other opposition to the anthem change is the way it will alter the poetic cadence of the song. That didn’t seem to bother Robert Stanley Weir who while writing the original English version of O Canada in 1908 actually used the phrase ‘thou dost in us command.’ He only changed it to ‘in all thy sons’ command in 1914. An article in the Canadian Encyclopedia suggests this change may have been made as a way to counteract the growing strength of an increasingly vocal group of suffragettes lobbying for women to be given the right to vote.

The famous five women who fought to have women recognized as persons in Canada

A statue on the Manitoba Legislature grounds of the famous five who fought to have women recognized as persons in Canada

Patty Hajdu, Canada’s minister for the status of women in our nation’s first gender balanced cabinet, has said changing the words to the anthem is a symbol of our country’s strong commitment to gender equality. I agree. I think it is very fitting we are changing the words to our national anthem in the same year we are marking the one hundredth anniversary of women getting the right to vote in Canada. It is one way to honor the work of those who fought valiantly to obtain suffrage for women. It also honors the contributions of millions of skilled and creative Canadian women who have contributed to our country in a myriad of important ways thus displaying their true patriot love. Altering the words of the anthem is a small but significant change that will show new generations of Canadian girls they too are important to the future of their country.

Other posts……..

The Famous Five

Inequality at the Wailing Wall

From Pale and Weak to Platoon Commander


Leave a comment

Filed under Canada

Changing the Words For O Canada

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.


Leave a comment

Filed under Canada, Education