"O Canada" to go gender-neutral?

The government considers a politically correct rewrite of the country's national anthem

By Tracy Clark-Flory
March 6, 2010 2:20AM (UTC)
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After unprecedented global exposure during the Winter Olympics, "O Canada," the national anthem of our neighbor to the north, just might be getting a gender-neutral makeover. Oh, Canada, indeed. I guess it isn't enough to own the gold medal category in the Vancouver games -- and to be represented by a kick-ass, crush-worthy women's hockey team -- you also have to keep pursuing those admirable progressive causes, you.

The government called earlier this week for Parliament to consider a revision to the line, "True patriot love in all thy sons command." Because, hey, what of the patriotism of the country's daughters? It might seem a niggling point -- perhaps particularly to those whom it doesn't exclude -- but, as Dr. Lisbeth Donaldson, a professor at the University of Calgary, points out, it was kind of insulting for Canada's many female Olympic winners to have to sing such an outdated line. She told the Globe and Mail: "Given that women comprised 43 percent of the total Canadian contingent and received about 80 percent of the total medals … isn't it time to change the Canadian national anthem to be more inclusive?"


It's long overdue, actually. In 2002, a similar call was made to change the line to "all of us command," but the movement quickly fizzled. Of course, it's always possible the same thing could happen again, and some of my cynical Canadian compadres have suggested that this latest attempt could merely be a conservative attempt to draw attention away from Stephen Harper's unpopular decision to prorogue parliament for two months. It's certainly succeeded at sparking heated debate, but much of it in the form of confusion and anger directed at the government. Tom Flanagan, Harper's former chief of staff, told the Globe and Mail that "it's a bad idea to start rewriting national anthems and other national symbols every generation in response to passing trends in public opinion." But surely many Canadians are hoping that gender equity isn't merely a "passing trend."

Tracy Clark-Flory

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