Changing the anthem
A proposal has been made to make the anthem more gender inclusive
Article: Sarah Luyendyk – Contributor
There is a proposal to make the national anthem, O Canada, inclusive of both females and males. Prominent female figures including Kim Campbell, Canada’s first and only female Prime Minister, Canadian author Margaret Atwood Senator Nancy Ruth, Vivienne Poy, the retired senator, and Sally Goddard, the mother of Cpt. Nichola Goddard, the first female soldier killed in combat, explained, “in the last 100 years, we fought for a lot. Why shouldn’t we fight for a simple change that will unite us all? Canada’s women stand alongside of men in every sphere of activity; we need an anthem that reflects this reality.”
Therefore, the proposed change would entail changing two words, instead of in all “thy sons command” it would return to the original lyric of in all “of us command”.
The original O Canada was written and composed by two French Canadians. Judge Adolphe-Basile Routhier wrote the poem, and music teacher Calixa Lavallee composed the music for an event called the National Congress of French Canadians, in 1880. In 1908, a lawyer, Robert Stanley Weir created a version of the song that became popular and the basis of the present anthem. However, his original lyrics were “thou dost in us command” and in 1913, the lyrics were changed to “in all thy sons command”, so the anthem could also be used as a military recruiting ballad. Over the years, the song continued to be modified and eventually became Canada’s national anthem in 1980.
[pullquote]“It’s a good proposal, I think there is the idea that man/mankind or sons are generic and they include everyone, but they don’t, they never have, they obscure any women.” [/pullquote]
The campaign to make the anthem inclusive has brought a range of views. For instance, Tom Mulcair, leader of the NDP, opposes the initiative on the basis that if you start tinkering with an institution like the anthem, it would cause problems, especially when people have agreed on the English and French versions already. A student from the faculty of science commented, “one of the two major languages in Canada is French and French is very gender based…one little word in our national anthem isn’t very bad.”
Sociology student Bree Barnes voiced, “I don’t see a reason for them to change the anthem…I think that other things will need to be addressed that will have an impact on people’s lives.”
On the other hand, science student Marty Scriver said, “how we always looked at the elite white male, we constructed our country around them and these heroic actions. More people have contributed to what we accomplished up to this point and we need to reflect that in our anthem.”
Dr. Darlene Juschka, the coordinator for Women and Gender studies stated, “It’s a good proposal, I think there is the idea that man/mankind or sons are generic and they include everyone, but they don’t, they never have, they obscure any women.” Dr. Claire Carter, also from Women and Gender studies, stated she supports the change but doesn’t believe it goes far enough because it ignores other lyrics such as our home and native land, which does not honour or acknowledge our colonial history effectively.
It is uncertain if the anthem will change as a similar proposal was rejected in 2010. Nevertheless, as Carter explained, an anthem is symbolic of the relationship a person has with their nation.