Does Canada need a gender-neutral anthem? The House of Commons is set to debate a motion Tuesday from Liberal MP Mauril Belanger to make the lyrics of O Canada gender-neutral.
Benlanger, an Ottawa MP, who was diagnosed last fall with a fatal neurogenerative disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – also known as ALS – introduced his private member’s bill in January to replace the line in the English version of O Canada from “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command.”
“On the eve of the 150th anniversary of our federation, it is important that one of our most recognized and appreciated national symbols reflect the progress made by our country in terms of gender equality,” Belanger told the Commons on May 6.
“This progress was slow and hard-won at times and it marked our country’s history. It should be celebrated in our national anthem.”
The Conservatives managed to block an attempt to pass the bill quickly, which had Liberals accusing their rivals of taking away the chance for Belanger to see his bill pass while he is still able to enjoy it.
The motion has garnered strong responses from Canadians, who have launched petitions both for and against the changes. Canada, however, would not be the first country to make its anthem more inclusive.
If the amendment is passed it would restore the original English lyrics of O Canada, which referred to “thou dost in us command.” The wording was changed to “all thy sons” in 1913,
In 2012, Austria changed the first verse of its anthem ‘Land of Mountains’ to recognize the “great sons and daughters” of the country according to The Guardian.
In 2013, Switzerland ran a public contest looking for more modern lyrics for its national song The Swiss Psalm, which critics said were too religious, (When the Alps glow bright with splendor / pray to God, to Him surrender,” for example.) A winner was announced on Sept. 12, 2015, but the Swiss government has not yet voted on the change.
Other countries to change their national anthem for political reasons include: Germany, following the Second World War, Iraq, which changed its anthem after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and South Africa changed its anthem after the end of apartheid.
Russia changed its anthem after the fall of the Soviet Union. Vladimir Putin, however, reverted back to the old anthem in 2000 but this time with different lyrics, according to the New York Times. When the new lyrics were revealed by the Kremlin, the following verse was removed:
“Its mighty wings spread above us.
The Russian eagle is hovering high.
The Fatherland’s tricolor symbol.
Is leading Russia’s peoples to victory.”
*With a file from the Canadian Press