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Gender neutral anthem puts us on the right side of history

['Commentary with Geoff deGannes']
['Commentary with Geoff deGannes']

Commentary with Geoff deGannes

Call it a tempest in a teacup. The recent decision by the Canadian Senate to change the lyrics of the national anthem to a gender neutral version has sparked a heated national debate and even has Conservative Senators so infuriated that they are now considering holding up the passage of the Trudeau Government’s marijuana legislation.  

For years now, parliamentarians have been locked in an endless discussion over the pros and cons of changing one line in the national anthem. The change being proposed in the second line of the anthem was from “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command.” 

Several bills were drafted between 1980 and now to come up with a version that reflected more inclusivity.

If Canadians knew their history they would know that the original version of O’Canada was originally gender neutral. The original lyric to the 1908 version of O’ Canada was “Thou dost in us command.”  It was changed to “all thy sons command” in 1914. There were actually four versions of the anthem that emerged in the early 1900s, including the current version.

The amendment finally approved last month by the Senate was the dying wish of Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger, suffering from ALS, who introduced the bill two years ago in the House of Commons. 

I remember that emotional day in Parliament when he had to use an iPad app to make his speech introducing the Bill. You might recall that Bill C-210 didn’t take long making passage through the House and Bélanger, lived just long enough to see it passed. 

But for the last 18 months in the upper chamber, the one-line legislation was stubbornly opposed by Conservatives senators.  Third reading went 19 rounds. The speaker in the Senate used a procedure called a “dispensing motion” to bring about a final vote on this matter and the rest is history. 

The newly amended anthem officially became law last Wednesday with Royal Assent. Although the Conservative senators will argue that the procedure to get the motion passed was a case of trampling on democracy, Liberal Senator Jim Munson sees it much differently. 

He believes we are now on the right side of history. I agree. While there are many Canadians reluctant to see changes in our institutions and traditions, the new gender neutral O’ Canada symbolizes who we are today … a nation that embraces inclusiveness, tolerance and gender equity. 

Much like the great flag debate of the 60’s, Canadians will, in good time, come to accept “in all of us command” and sing out proudly whenever the occasion arises.

Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.

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