National anthem debated

Activists are aiming to make O' Canada lyrics gender-neutral
Activists are aiming to make O’ Canada lyrics gender-neutral

A new initiative, aiming to change and restore the original lyrics of Canada’s national anthem, O’Canada, has taken the country by storm.

The project, called the Restore Our Anthem Campaign, was organized to promote a “gender neutral” version of Canada’s national anthem. The anthem Canada currently uses was actually rewritten in 1913, changing Robert Stanley Weir’s original lyric “in thou dost us command” to  “in all thy sons command.”

“The group in the campaign wants to revert to the original English lyrics, including us, not sons,” said Canadian Senator Nancy Ruth, one of the organization’s founding members. “This is the 100th anniversary of the change, and it seemed like a good time to be doing it.”

Ruth is among many prominent female Canadians who support the initiative. Margaret Atwood, Kim Campbell, former senator Vivenne Poy and Sally Goddard have also offered their endorsements.

The Restore Our Anthem Campaign has received much national media coverage in the past week.

“We’ve had over 1,300 media interviews and have received over 13 million tweets,” said Ruth. “We’ve had huge coverage.”

Dissenting views on the matter of restoring the original lyrics have existed in Parliament for years. For instance, when the issue of gender neutrality in O’Canada was brought up in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 2010 speech to the throne, the issue was dropped altogether after his office received much backlash.

Students have also joined in on the discussion.

“I think this is a very cool and innovative idea. It is important to change and be current with the times, and equality is also very important. I think this change, which is very small, is a good idea. If it makes women in our society prouder to be Canadian, then why not?” said Rachel Ginther, a first-year student at Wilfrid Laurier University. “That line has always popped out at me, like when I was little, I used to question to my mom, why is it ‘in all our sons command?’”

“I don’t really see the importance in changing the two words,” said another first year student, Andrew Polley.

“It just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal and I don’t feel that many people actually notice that the anthem isn’t gender neutral.”

One common argument against restoring the lyrics of the anthem is that there is a lack of relevance to society. Many have responded to the campaign by stating Parliament should focus on issues deemed more pressing, such as the country’s economic state.

However, according to Ruth, O’ Canada’s lyrics have been changed many times before.

“I would say five or six times. It’s not a big deal to do this,” said Ruth. “All this restoration requires would be an amendment to the National Anthem Act of 1980 to change two words, ‘thy sons’ to ‘all us.’”

The Restore Our Anthem Campaign has received tremendous public support, but is lacking in support from Parliament.

“It’s primarily older white men who oppose this restoration,” Ruth said. “Younger men often say, ‘what’s the issue here?’ They’re cool with it.”

After the immense national media coverage the Restore Our Anthem Campaign received last week, the focus has now shifted to local media. Ruth explained that MPs are more inclined to read local papers, calling it a “grassroots issue.”

“The goal is to have people go to their MPs and demand a change, so that demand is then taken to parliamentary leaders and something is done,” she said.

Ruth later expressed that the restoration and amendment is ultimately about promoting equality in Canada and allowing women to take pride in being Canadian.

“I would love it to happen before the Olympics,” she said. “I would love to have our women hockey stars beat the Americans and sing an anthem including them.”

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