Do you think the Canadian national anthem is a bit patriarchal and sexist? Well, so does Liberal MP Mauril Belanger, who back in January introduced a private members bill to change a few of the words to make it gender neutral.
The bill (Bill C-270) has been discussed in the House of Commons over the last few months and is inciting much more controversy than originally expected. If passed, this legislation would change one line in the Canadian anthem from “true patriot love in all thy sons command” to “true patriot love in all of us command.”
The official opposition is arguing that the national anthem is part of Canada’s heritage and shouldn’t be altered. At the same time, the Liberals are arguing that not only will this change more accurately represent the inclusive country Canada has become, but it will also be closer to the original wording of the anthem. The phrase “in all they sons command” was inserted into the anthem in 1913. The original English wording was “thou dost in us command.”
“Many believe the change was related to events leading up to the First World War. It was perhaps assumed that in any major conflict it would only be young men who would carry our national banner and pride into battle, but in fact, both men and women from Canada proudly took part in the First World War. Canadian women served overseas, not as soldiers but in other functions, especially as nurses, and many died doing so. We have commemorated them in Parliament’s Hall of Honour but we have not commemorated them in our anthem,” Belanger said in the House.
This is probably the last bill MP Belanger will be presenting to the House of Commons — he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS). Belanger tried to pass a similar bill during the last Parliament session, but it was defeated. It will now head into its second reading.
As a former history major, I have no problem changing this one particular section of our national anthem. It doesn’t alter the meaning of the phrase. It just removes a religious and patriarchal reference that was commonplace in that time period and is no longer relevant. If the Liberal government suddenly decided to change more symbolic words like “our home and native land”, then that would be a different story. As it is, it’s just a simple attempt at updating our national anthem for this century.
At the same time, I don’t think women are incredibly concerned with the words to the national anthem. I also think there are better ways of making women feel more “included”, like closing the wage gap and lowering the cost of birth control. But, I guess changing the words to the national anthem is a lot easier than the latter.