Canada is big – really big. And, apart from its geographical dimensions, let’s hope it’s big enough in spirit not to get bent out of shape over a change to the national anthem.
This has been a long time coming, but finally a piece of legislation will update a small phrase in the lyrics of O Canada to reflect its citizens more accurately. “True, patriot love, in all thy sons command” will see the latter words altered to “in all of us command.”
The issue had arisen on various occasions, many not being happy with the lingering patriarchal tinge of the “sons” take on the song. But the change, to be made official in coming days – and done in the interests of equality – are the culmination of the efforts of former Liberal MP Mauril Belanger.
Belanger, who had ALS, has since passed away, but not before the House of Commons passed the bill he championed for the change. The Senate approved the new wording last week, and the bill making it official is expected to be given royal assent by the Governor General this week.
With this comes the usual concern that it will take some getting used to by a lot of people, at least those who do join in to sing the lyrics in public settings.
But there are also some individuals and groups that oppose the change. One, The Rebel, has launched a petition on its website to “save O Canada,” asking supporters to help it commission a public opinion poll into whether Canadians approve of the change.
Keeping this in context, we have to note there have been occasional changes to the lyrics over the years, before O Canada was made our official national anthem in 1980.
Just how sacred are these things that we fancifully think of as written in stone?
Well, for comparison’s sake, when Presbyterian and United Church congregations get together for some event, and there’s that little difference in the Lord’s Prayer? They don’t duke it out. It goes one way sometimes, the other way other times. There are no earthquakes or bolts of lightning.
Things change occasionally, for a variety of reasons, with updated language or to reflect shifts in viewpoint.
Some have argued in the case of O Canada, that “sons” in this context traditionally referred to the citizens of a nation, regardless of gender.
But that’s just the point. The language is outdated and reflects a country, a society, and its language that were patriarchal to the core, when women weren’t yet allowed to vote and few held office.
The time for this update is due. It might take some of us a while to get things in sync. But nothing says harmony better than a song when everybody knows how it goes and it’s about something they hold dear.