“In all of us command” excludes some Canadians

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

A change to the national anthem should have been decided by the people—not the government

After almost two years of debate in the House of Commons, a line in the national anthem was officially changed from “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command” on Feb. 7 for the sake of gender-neutrality. The change was originally put forward in 2016 by the late Liberal member of Parliament Mauril Bélanger.

According to Historica Canada, the original French version of “O Canada” was written in 1880 by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. It did not feature the “sons command” line, nor did the original English version reportedly first sung in 1901. The “O Canada” we are all familiar with emerged around the time of the First World War. In 1908, Montreal lawyer Robert Stanley Weir wrote an English version of the anthem to celebrate Quebec City’s 300th anniversary, according to Historica Canada. It was in 1916 that Weir’s line “thou dost in us command” was changed to “in all thy sons command.”

Although the latest change to the national anthem is more inclusive, I find it difficult to celebrate. My biggest issue with the change is not the line itself, but the fact that the decision was left to the government rather than voted on in a referendum.

I believe the Canadian people, not politicians, should have voted on a change that affects how their country is represented across the world. If the anthem change had been put to a referendum and decided by the people, I would not have objected. I understand that, in this country, majority rules. I still would not have been happy with the change, but at least I would have felt my voice had been heard, and I would respect the choice of my fellow Canadians.

Not only was the decision left to politicians, but according to CBC News, a motion was put forward by Independent Ontario senator Frances Lankin to bypass debate and move to a vote. As such, Conservative senator Don Plett from Manitoba, who was vocally against the bill, never got to speak in front of Parliament. Is this how our government is supposed to work? Although the Conservative Party boycotted Lankin’s motion and missed the vote, I still can’t help but feel any opposition to this decision went unheard.

The third issue I have with this situation is the Liberal Party’s obsession with political correctness. I believe the party has developed a sort of crusade to gender-neutralize everything in Canada, whether it’s the anthem or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau interrupting a woman’s question at a town hall to correct her use of “mankind” to “peoplekind.” He is now being mocked for it by some commentators, including Good Morning Britain’s Piers Morgan. Although Trudeau responded to the criticism by calling his comment a “dumb joke,” his action seemed sincere, and the point remains.

In my opinion, the change to the anthem was completely unnecessary. Growing up and listening to the anthem in school, we knew “sons” wasn’t gendered to disavow women from being included as Canadians. I fear this change will create a domino effect through Parliament as the Liberal Party carves out parts of the anthem and our society that don’t fit their agenda.

Finally, it’s impossible to ignore that this was a complete waste of time. The change was up for debate for 18 months. Do our politicians not have anything better to discuss? There are issues within Indigenous communities that must be addressed. There’s the Alberta-B.C. trade war and relations with the United States. Yet, Parliament feels their time is best spent arguing over a song that is more than 100 years old.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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