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Canadian senate votes to make national anthem ‘gender neutral’

Dorothy Cummings McLean Dorothy Cummings McLean Follow Dorothy

OTTAWA, Canada, February 1, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Canada's Senate voted yesterday to make the country's national anthem gender-neutral by deleting the word "sons" and changing it for "us."

The Senate voted for the change in “O Canada” after a Tuesday evening motion from Senator Frances Lankin led to a final vote on Bill C-210. The Bill seeks to change the exhortation “true patriot love in all thy sons command” to “true patriot love in all of us command.” 

The Bill, which passed quickly through its first three readings, had been stalled in the Senate for 18 months by a Conservative filibuster. 

According to Canada’s National Post, Lankin’s surprise move led Conservative Senator Leo Housakos to accuse her of “the most Draconian step taken in the history of this place.” Conservative Senator Don Plett wanted to debate the motion, but found it was too late. 

“The Tories’ immediate reaction was to perceive collusion between the speaker and Justin Trudeau appointees to shut down dissenting opinions,” the Post reported. 

Housakos criticized the way the vote took place as a "trampling upon democracy." 

“If this is Justin Trudeau’s Senate, we are certainly trampling upon democracy. And we’re putting the government on notice today, with not being in there, that we are not going to tolerate this any further,” he said. “Today it’s on this particular bill. What’s next?,” he said. 

In 2016, Candice Malcolm of the Toronto Sun accused the “Trudeau Liberals” of wanting to “rewrite our Canadian heritage to suit today’s politically correct environment.” She condemned the new wording, echoing others before her, as “clumsy and awkward sounding.” 

She cited a 2013 survey that found that only one in four Canadians supported the change. 

But “forget public opinion,” she wrote. “With a majority in the House of Commons, and committees stacked with Liberal MPs, the Trudeau government has decided it will simply ram through the change without consulting Canadians.” 

Malcolm raised the possibility of politicians changing other parts of the anthem they find unfashionable, like the references to God, or Canada being our “home and native land.” 

She quoted Conservative MP Peter Van Loan, who said  “Canadians are being shut out. Their national anthem is being changed. They have been singing it for decades, it belongs to them. We are telling Canadians, ‘Guess what, you don’t have a say in your national anthem.’”

Van Loan is the Official Opposition Critic for Canadian Heritage.

The Bill was introduced in January 2016 by the Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger, now deceased, who had been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). He used a voice generator in the House of Commons to present his Bill, becoming the first MP ever to do so.  

Belanger’s goal was for a revised national anthem to “reflect the progress made by our country in terms of gender equity.”

An identical Bill introduced by Bélanger in 2014 had been defeated by a 144-127 vote. 

One prominent opponent of the Bill was the historian Chris Champion. Champion argued before the Senate that Canada’s traditions need to be strengthened, not altered, and said that the only example of the phrase“in all of us” he had found in a literary search was in “the grunge singer Kurt Cobain’s suicide note.” 

However, the mention of “sons” in “O Canada” is itself an alteration. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, at least four English versions were set to the music of the French original. The one that became most prominent in the 20th century, and made the official national anthem in 1980 was by Robert Stanley Weir. Weir’s original, written in 1908, contained the line “true patriot love thou dost in us command”.

The line was altered to “true patriot love in all thy sons command” in 1914. “There is no evidence as to why the change to ‘sons’ was made,” the Canadian Encyclopedia states, “although it is worth noting that the women’s suffrage movement was at its most militant and controversial around in 1913, and by 1914 and 1916 there was an enormous surge of patriotism during the First World War, at a time when only men could serve in the armed forces.”

Mauril Bélanger’s campaign to make Weir’s anthem gender-neutral again will be accomplished when the Bill receives formal Royal assent. 

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