O’ Canada does not need gender neutral lyrics

Gender equality issues and damaging social perspectives should remain among the country’s top priorities...

Gender equality issues and damaging social perspectives should remain among the country’s top priorities, but changing the lyrics of O’ Canada to reflect a more gender neutral tone is not the way to go about it.

The debate taking place in the House of Commons is a farce and waste of time. No one who has it in their hearts and minds that women are not equal to men is going to change their beliefs because of one line in a song. Attaining more progress is going to need a much more aggressive, personal course of action.

Liberal MP Mauril Belanger introduced the bill in January, under the pretense of honouring gender equality progress made in the county thus far. Belanger says progress has been slow and hard-won.

However, he should know celebrating advancements in gender equality is not done by wasting the time of those paid to make a difference in the county on a matter that will make no tangible difference in the lives of Canadians.

If those involved in government want to support the bill because they think it will make a difference they should instead honour that hard-won progress with more hard work.

Making achievements in gender equality means tackling the issues actually affecting the lives of Canadians such as the sexism and body shaming that follows uneducated dress codes and the imbalance of maternity versus paternity leave; having real conversations at the ground level rather than detached politicians discussing superficial matters that barely scratch the surface.

Supporters of the bill, including Belanger himself, want to change the line of the song “All thy sons command” back to earlier lyrics of “Thou dost in us command” changed in 1913 to better reflect Canada’s history and reflect its future of gender equality.

The very first version of O’ Canada was created in French by Adolphe-Basile Routhier, in 1880. It became very popular in Quebec over the next 20 years but was not heard in English until the early 1900s; the direct French to English translation was not a hit.

The Canadian Edition of Collier’s Weekly magazine held a competition to find suitable English lyrics. The winner was announced in 1909 but that version did not gain popularity either.

The first version of what most people today associate as O’ Canada was written in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir. A few other lines are different now and it contains several more verses not sung these days.

There is no concrete evidence as to why the change to “sons” was made but many believe is was to reflect the surge of patriotism the county felt for its men serving in the military and to denounce the woman’s suffrage movement, which was at its most controversial around 1913.

In that light Canada’s national anthem is portrayed as one-sided, not matter how good its intentions toward those enlisted and a political tool out to encourage gender inequality.

But it is unreasonable and unethical to think every time a piece of history becomes outdated it should be erased or revised. A country with no past has no culture and changing the lyrics over and over again lessens the importance of the term national anthem; it will become nothing more than a song to reflect the flavour of the day.

After the introduction of the bill the Conservatives managed to block it, the Liberals accusing them of taking away Belanger’s opportunity to see his bill passed while he still has a chance.

Belanger was diagnosed with ALS last year. His deteriorating health is tragic—for him, his family and friends, and for the future good he could have brought the country but is pity on a man’s life a valid enough reason to pass a bill and make a law? Unfortunately no, it is not.

Amelia Naismith is the new reporter for The Pipestone Flyer. She writes a regular column for the paper.

 

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