THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canadian anthem to become gender neutral

A bill to make the anthem gender neutral passed in Senate Jan. 31, but is not yet law

Bill C-210, an act to change the national anthem to be more “gender neutral,” passed it’s third reading in Senate on Jan. 31.

The bill had overwhelming support, with 225 votes in favour and only 74 votes against.

The bill will change the wording of “O Canada” to be gender inclusive by removing the word sons from the line “In all thy sons command” in the English version of the song.

Instead, the bill recommends the wording be changed to: “In all of us command.”

The third reading of the bill was passed at 5:42 p.m. EST, however the bill is not yet law. Bill C-210 will not be treated as law until such time as it receives royal assent from the Governor General.

According to the now retired senator, Nancy Ruth, who is a sponsor the private member bill, Senate has always thought about changing the words to be gender neutral.

“The English national anthem that we currently sing was proclaimed into force on July 1, 1980… Not surprisingly, given the times, both MPs and senators — including Senator Joyal — objected to the words “thy sons.” A promise was made to consider these words at a later time. Well, this is the later time,” Ruth said in her speech to Senate during the second reading.

Since the national anthem was adopted in 1980 there have been 11 previous bills to change the wording, to be gender neutral.

It should also be noted the song has been changed before. What is now the national anthem was originally written in 1908 by Judge Robert Stanley Weir, and set to a French song from the 1800s. It is documented the poem by Weir was changed in 1903 from “thou dost in us command” to “in all thy sons command.”

“To sum up, of the nine lines in the English version of O Canada adopted in 1980, only four reflect the original wording. The other five lines have been changed, one of them twice,” Ruth explained.

Ruth also cited a national poll that showed 62 per cent of Canadians wanted to change the anthem to be more inclusive.

Changing the words of the English version of the song is said to better show the values of Canadians.

“Indeed, reflecting our values is fundamental to the job description of a national anthem. It is, as essence, a key statement about who we are, what we stand for, and who we want to be,” said Ruth.

Independent Ontario Sen. Frances Lankin told reporters after the reading she was proud to be a part of the group that brought the bill into being.

She called the change small in the series of things, as it is only two words, but considered it to be a huge change in the representation of the country.

“Our major national symbol, the anthem we sing with pride about our country, and we can now sing it with pride knowing the law will support us in terms of the language,” Lankin said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter after the vote to share the news, which he called another step in the right direction.

While the vast majority voted in favour of the bill, there were still 74 senators opposed. And there are many who share this viewpoint, calling the change “nonsensical” a “bastardization”.

The bill was originally introduced by Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger, who died in 2016. Former senator Ruth also submitted a similar bill roughly 10 years ago.

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