The Senate last week passed the bill to change two words of “O Canada” to make it gender-neutral—almost eight months after its initial passage by the House of Commons.
It's hard to believe it took so long to drag out the decision to include women—as in just over half of Canada's population—in our national anthem. But equally mind-boggling was the outcry by some on social media, particularly women, that left the impression the move was tantamount to treason.
Replacing “in all thy sons command" with "in all of us command" is an innocuous yet hugely symbolic change, and one that actually reflects the original English lyrics of "True patriot love thou dost in us command." It's believed that line was changed to "thy sons” to ramp up patriotism among young men who soon would be sent off to be slaughtered in the trenches of the First World War.
In a nutshell, the lyrics were changed before. So amending them again certainly is not unprecedented, especially when the move is to right a 100-year-old wrong.
True, those of use who grew up ingrained with “in all thy sons command" likely will have trouble remembering to use the new words whenever we sing "O Canada.” In fact, Canadian Olympic bobsledder (and former CFL'er) Jesse Lumsden already has apologized in advance if he or his fellow athletes muff the words during medal ceremonies at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang over the next two weeks.
Yes, it may take a generation or two for the anthem change to really take hold—just like when Canada switched to the metric system back in the 1970s. Hopefully, though, the day will come soon enough when our children and grandchildren sing the new words proudly and wonder what all the fuss was about.
Likening the change to “O Canada” as an attack on an iconic national symbol is off base. Rather, we all should be proud—and thankful—that gender inequality no longer is enshrined in our national anthem.