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‘Oh Canada’ – a patriarchal anthem?

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Added: Thu, 02/11/2016 - 12:26am
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Ottawa Liberal MP Mauril Belanger recently announced his intention to take a second stab at changing the lyrics to the national anthem ‘Oh Canada’ in order to make it more gender neutral by changing the line “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command”. He claims the change will “pay tribute to all the women who have worked and fought to build and shape the Canada we know today ... to at long last honour their sacrifices and contributions” by eliminating the song’s inference that patriotism is something felt only by men.
Belanger expects the debate on his tabled private member’s bill will begin in April; his last effort was defeated in April 2015 by a 144-127 vote.
Since 1980 when the lyrics were changed to replace repetitive phrases with “From far and wide, O Canada” and “God keep our land, glorious and free”, there have been more than 10 attempts – all which failed – to “include” women in the lyrics. But were they ever really excluded?
In many languages, the male pronoun is often used as the default when referring to offspring or unknown genders. Is “thy sons” not another way of implying “my children” or “my descendents”? It’s a grammar rule, much the same as the French language rule where a room full of women will be referred to as ‘elles’ until one male enters and they are all then referred to as ‘ils’.
Isn’t it true that other lyrics in
the anthem could be regarded as equally exclusive? Does “our home and native land” exclude immigrants? Does “God keep our land, glorious and free” exclude atheists or those who believe in alternate religions? The silliness could go on … Does “We see thee rise” exclude the visually impaired? I’m sure you get the point!
There are countless more important issues this country is facing – poverty,
climate change, the TPP, voting reform,
aboriginal rights, species protection,
pollution, etc – that require the
government’s full attention, and
consequently, tax dollars to address them.
Is this really one?
Have we ever heard anyone – other than those who have attempted to change the lyrics – comment on or complain about the wording of the anthem? Is it something Canadians, or women, should be concerned about or has the endless pursuit of political correctness gone too far in this instance?
You be the judge dear readers; let us know what you think!
Allyson Beauregard