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The Journal Gazette

Friday, February 02, 2018 1:00 am

Canada's anthem to become gender-neutral

Washington Post

It was a simple tweak – just two words.

But with that, Canada turned its national anthem “Oh Canada” gender-neutral, delighting liberal lawmakers and infuriating conservatives.

The offending line – “in all thy sons command” – was switched to “in all of us command.”

“Mauril's bill to make 'O Canada' gender neutral passed third reading in the Senate tonight – another positive step towards gender equality,'' tweeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Canadian anthem was composed by judge and poet Robert Stanley Weir in 1908. His original did not include the offending line, which was added by Weir after World War I to reference the men who lost their lives in battle.

Shortly after the vote, the bill's proponents celebrated.

“I'm very, very happy,” Independent Ontario Sen. Frances Lankin, who sponsored the measure, told the CBC. “This may be small, it's about two words, but it's huge . .... We can now sing it with pride knowing the law will support us in terms of the language. I'm proud to be part of the group that made this happen.”

Not everyone was quite so excited.

Conservative senators fiercely opposed the measure, arguing Parliament had no business tweaking a century-old song decades after its author passed away. They were angry, too, that the legislation's supporters used a parliamentary procedure to force a vote before opponents could say their piece.

“Clearly, I'm disappointed. ... It's been a long fight. I believe the Canadian public wanted a say in our national anthem, just like they had in the great Canadian flag debate. This is an issue for the Canadian public to decide, not just a couple of Independent senators,” longtime opponent Sen. Don Plett told the CBC.

The change has been years in the making.

Liberal lawmaker Mauril Belanger began pushing for the change in 1980. Since then, he's introduced 12 bills to strip the text of its gendered language. All of his efforts failed.