Canada Could Make Its National Anthem Gender Neutral


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From 'all thy sons' to 'all of us'

'O Canada' has been the national anthem since 1980

'O Canada' has been the national anthem since 1980

The poetically named Bill C-210 is set to pass the floor of the Senate in Canada this week. The bill's aim is to change the lyrics of the national anthem 'O Canada' to be gender neutral. It's an issue that Women's rights groups and activists have been campaigning for since the country's adoption of 'O Canada' over 'God Save The Queen' in 1980.

However, this wouldn't be the first modification to the song, which was first changed in 1914 to include the line "all thy sons" to show support for soldiers leaving for the Western Front during WWI.

The new wording would return to the original version of the song, altering just four words from "true patriot love, in all thy sons command" to "true patriot love, in all of us command".

If adopted, Canada would not be the first to make a change of this nature though. Austria amended its national anthem, Land der Berge, Land am Strome, in 2012 to recognise women and make it gender neutral.

The legislation would be in harmony with much of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's policy during his premiership. A self-declared feminist he has been the first leader of the country to appoint a gender balanced cabinet and recently promised $650 million of funding for projects concerning reproductive health and rights around the world.

Conservative opposition?

Conservative opposition?
Mykhaylo Palinchak/123RF

Despite the bill passing the Commons with ease, in a vote of 225 to 74 it must now face the scrutiny of the Senate.

It is here that grammar could end up making or breaking law as Senators have been running over the proposed changes with a fine tooth comb. Recently Conservative Senator Tobias C. Enverga proposed an amendment to replace "all of us command" with "all of our command? arguing that "us" is a grammatically incorrect pronoun in the context. The pedantic move is an attempt to slow down the bill which conservatives are opposed to.

An amendment to the bill would send it back to the Commons where it would need to be discussed then have to unanimously support another sponsor. Unlikely in the face of Conservative opposition, the future of this bill hangs in the balance.

Ten previous attempts have been struck down in Parliament following Conservative opposition who have branded the bill as "grammatically unnecessary" or have argued that most Canadian soldiers are male.

The bill's supporters want it passed by Canada Day on the 1st July, but with a summer recess approaching for Parliament it remains to be seen whether or not their hopes will fall flat.

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Benjamin Jacques
Posted on 30/06/2017 5 shares
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