Kristen Douglas

Anthem change could be slippery slope

There has been much debate over the past few weeks about what appears to be an imminent change to the lyrics of our national anthem.

And rightly so.

For most English-speaking Canadians, we’ve been singing O Canada as it is in its current form since the day we were born.

Though O Canada didn’t become our official anthem until 1980, the lyrics as we know them today have been around since the early 1900s.

Two weeks ago, however, the House of Commons passed third reading – with a vote of 225 to 74 – of a bill to change the lyrics that will make them more gender neutral.

The private member’s bill, if it is passed by the Senate, will change the words from ‘in all thy son’s command’ to ‘in all of us command.’

The bill was introduced in May by Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger, who is dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s Bélanger’s second attempt at trying to revise the lyrics to O Canada. He introduced an identical bill in the last sessions of Parliament but it was defeated last April during second reading by a vote of 144 to 127.

I must confess when I first heard the government intends to change the lyrics to our anthem I was none too pleased.

I know that as a woman I should probably be thankful that our country is trying to be politically correct and altering lyrics that some may perceive as sexist.

But I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t like change and my immediate thought was, ‘doesn’t the government have more important things to worry about?’

I voiced those opinions to my sister and much to my surprise she informed me that the lyrics that the government plans to throw out are not even the original lyrics.

That the change to ‘in all of us command’  actually takes us back closer to the original lyrics as penned by Robert Stanley Weir who wrote the official English version of O Canada in 1908.

His original lyrics from 1908 used ‘thou dost in us command’.

The words were changed to ‘in all thy sons command’ during the World War I, presumably as a way to honour our Canadian armed forces.

It may sound silly, but for some reason knowing that made it easier for me to swallow the fact the powers that be are changing our anthem.

I guess it made me realize that the anthem isn’t untouchable and it has been changed before and we all survived.

I do still worry that it could be a slippery slope.

I’m sure atheists would like to see the reference to God taken out of the anthem and some First Nations may want ‘native land’ removed.

This move could be precedent setting. I would like to hope it’s not and that the rest of O Canada remains as is.

I proudly sing the lyrics at the beginning of sporting events and there’s only so many changes I can train my brain to remember.

I guarantee I’ll probably be singing in ‘all thy son’s command’ for years still to come. But it won’t be out of defiance, I promise.

It’ll take some getting used to, but I’m trying hard to embrace change.

So much so that if we’re making changes to the anthem, why not do as my husband suggested and add a big ol’ ‘sorry’ to the end of it?

Apologizing is what Canadians do best, right?