Saying no to changed anthem lyrics
O Canada. What’s in a name — would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?
That’s precisely one of the debates we’re having in Parliament right now.
A Liberal MP has proposed a private member’s bill to change a line of O Canada, from “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command,” so as to ostensibly make the anthem “gender neutral.”
How important is that line?
Based on the passionate responses I have gotten so far, people in our constituency take the words of our anthem very seriously, because of its symbolic significance.
Most people I have talked to so far oppose this change. The importance we invest in this song makes people reluctant to change it.
The importance of the anthem as a collective marker of our identity makes it understandable why some people don’t like the reference to “sons” — at least, those who interpret the line in a particular way.
While English has historically used male pronouns to denote the universal, that is a form that has been changing.
Perhaps the anthem should change to reflect the new linguistic reality as well.
On the other hand, though, I have heard particularly strong representations from women who don’t want to see their anthem changed.
They have never had a problem seeing themselves in the word “sons”, and object to the implication that “sons” is anything but a universal reference.
Personally, I too am disinclined to support attempts like this to change our national symbols.
The anthem has changed before and could change again — but the ability of national symbols to express elements of collective identity depends on their relative consistency.
If symbols are changed in response to shifting linguistic trends, or transient notions of political correctness, we would have to change our symbols all the time.
In any event, the Liberals are moving way too fast on this.
This private member’s bill may pass this week, after only three hours of debate and no public consultations.
The government is pushing to make this change as quickly as possible, because Mauril Belanger, the MP who proposed it, is dying of ALS.
His situation is tragic, and he deserves the goodwill of all MPs; but, it isn’t responsible to rush something this important because of one man’s legacy.
The anthem belongs to all Canadians.
It is particularly off-putting that Liberals have already started singing the revised anthem in the House of Commons before the law has even passed.
If the anthem can be sung now with different wording from the official, legal version, will these same Liberals hypocritically object to people singing it the traditional way after the new law is passed?
For now, I’ll be voting no.
I hope we can put the brakes on this, and at the very least, open the door for a longer conversation about how a larger number of Canadians feel about possible wording changes.
Garnett Genuis is the member of Parliament for Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 780-467-4944. His office is located in the Park Place Professional Centre, Unit No. 214. Genuis was first elected in October 2015.
Published: Thursday, June 16, 2016