In a poll that does not surprise me in the least, some 65% of Canadians do not want to change the one word in their national anthem that would make it more inclusive. As it currently stands, the anthem contains the line, “…in all thy sons command”. People have been pitching to have it changed to “…in all of us command”.
A small change? Yes. A change for the better? Yes, if you feel that women are worth including in your national anthem. Giving in to PC demands? Hardly, as Robert Stanley Weir wrote the English translation in 1908 using the gender neutral lyrics, “thou dost in us command”. He changed them in 1914 to the current “sons”, although it is not sure why and I wonder if there was such a fuss about changing them then.
Whose Canadian national anthem is it anyway?
On the face of it, there is no rational reason not to return the lyrics to the neutral form. But in Canada, as elsewhere, any change to the national anthem rapidly becomes A Very Big Issue Indeed. The pro-change side is very clear, as can be seen in the video below. The no-change side does not really have much to offer the debate apart from, “No” (with a side-helping of comments about “whiners”, PC brigades and “Muslim hordes”).
But whose anthem is it anyway if 50% of the population are specifically excluded?
Whose son is it anyway?
One of the only reasoned anti-change comments I have seen is that the son in “thy sons command” refers to the son of God, not the sons of Canada. This doesn’t stand up to a reading of the original first two lines,
“O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love thou dost in us command.
This clearly says that Canada evokes patriot love in the listener. So there is no reference to God and no need to exclude women.
But as an afterthought, I can’t help adding one more thing. Any discussion about national anthems is a little rhetorical given the small numbers of people that could sing more than one verse.
Once more with emotion
In September 2014, Ottawa-Vanier Liberal MP Mauril Belanger decided to have another go, by introducing a private member’s bill to make the change.
“The bill proposes a simple change in the English version only,” he said in the House of Commons. “I hope that the exchanges and debate will be respectful, and beyond partisanship,” he added. I wish him luck.
The proposed change is over two words.
Belanger wants the lyrics “True patriot love in all thy sons command,” to become “true patriot love, in all of us command.”
He says the alternation would make the anthem more gender-inclusive. I’m not sure being reasonable actually helps his cause.