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The National Anthem

March 12, 2010

Photo via Toronto Children's Chorus

O Canada! You won both Olympic hockey events and walked away with the most gold medals, all amidst a sea of misbelievers. The time for moving forward is now, you say? With a triumphant spotlight on our wintry homeland, our nation has once more been inspired to step up to the plate and lead, rather than lingering in the back corner. Surely, there hasn’t been a better time to make some long overdue changes.


The big news on the Canadian front last week was murmuring from a few conservatives who suggested touching up the National Anthem to make it more gender neutral—the pointed offender being the lyric ‘all thy son’s command’.

Quicker than you can say ‘freeze parliament’, Canadians across the globe (74%!?) were outraged, perhaps all in the name of tradition (or maybe they thought it was blasphemy to mess with something so embedded in Canadian culture). Perhaps someone should have told them that the original 1908 lyrics actually did say ‘thou dost in us command’. Oh well. A day after the story broke, the Prime Minister batted away concern by dismissing the review of the anthem.

Oh, thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand, Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!- US National Anthem- The Star Spangled Banner

I find it ironic that before the public rained down, it was actually the liberals who were opposed to this. And their reason had nothing to do with the sanctity of heritage or tradition—they said that the government should take a more direct action to encourage equality of women, that is, they should ‘do something real’ rather than ‘merely symbolic’. I’m not saying they’re wrong. The government should take a more active role in encouraging gender neutrality across the country—but not doing something as easy as changing two words just because the effect to them seems minimal? That’s what I have a problem with.

They come right to our arms, To slit the throats of our sons, our friends!- France National Anthem- La Marseillaise

If the anthem isn’t the first thing that should be changed, then it needs to be the attitude. Governments, citizens, and everyone who’s got the fear of starting progress needs to understand—equality means that nothing gets left out. Especially something as ubiquitous as language. It is an inkling of hope that the idea was brought up at all but I can’t give Canada too much credit; they’ve tried at least three times before to change the lyrics.

From shore to shore! Lord make the nations see, That men should brothers be, And form one family- UK National Anthem- God Save the Queen

As we reach the end of a week that began with International Women’s Day, I hope that Canada and other countries around the world can start to understand what this day means and that even though some actions may be interpreted by some as gestures, actions are still actions, and we need them all if we’re going to get to where we need to be.

  1. Julie Bartkiewicz permalink
    March 12, 2010 8:13 am

    I find it a bit ridiculous that the Liberals refused to do ANYTHING instead of something simple.

    Once again if Majorities are accepted as the end all and be all then nothing will change.

    • March 12, 2010 8:38 am

      Well, that definitely says it all about Canadian politics in general. When the left side doesn’t seem to mind much on a particular issue and the general population goes along with it… well, you’re right. Nothing changes.

      Besides the Liberal argument, one of the worst criticisms I’ve read so far was that ‘thou dost in us command’ is so old English/old-fashioned and nobody actually talks like that anymore. And only singing about half the country isn’t old-fashioned?


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