It’s 2016

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

S oon, likely this fall, our na­tional an­them will fi­nally ac­knowl­edge the ex­is­tence of more than half our pop­u­la­tion. “O Canada” will lose “in all our sons com­mand” in favour of “in all of us com­mand.”

The fed­eral Lib­er­als, NDP, Green Party and sev­eral Con­ser­va­tives en­dorse the change. Most Con­ser­va­tives do not.

It shouldn’t be an is­sue. The change makes our an­them in­clu­sive and it’s long over­due. It’s recog­ni­tion that roughly 51 per cent of our pop­u­la­tion is fe­male.

But that’s not good enough for the Of­fi­cial Op­po­si­tion. They are us­ing ar­gu­ments about his­tory, heritage and her­aldry to delay pas­sage. They con­jured up a se­ries of far-fetched, hy­po­thet­i­cal sit­u­a­tions dur­ing de­bate as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to block the bill.

Its spon­sor, long­time Ottawa MP Mau­ril Belanger, is dy­ing of Lou Gehrig’s dis­ease.

Those Con­ser­va­tives ar­gu­ing against pas­sage con­ve­niently for­get they pro­posed to mod­ern­ize “O Canada” in 2010 but with­drew plans in the face of con­stituents’ op­po­si­tion. If there is pub­lic op­po­si­tion this time, it is ex­tremely muted.

The Tories also for­get that the words were changed to “in all our sons com­mand” at the start of the First World War as a trib­ute to sol­diers head­ing over­seas. Or that the words and lyrics have been tweaked sev­eral times over the years. Or that “O Canada” was only of­fi­cially adopted as the na­tional an­them in 1980. So much for tra­di­tion and his­tory. The Con­ser­va­tives ar­gue that chang­ing a na­tional sym­bol can spark emo­tional de­bate and that peo­ple are re­luc­tant to give up tra­di­tions. Re­ally? Belanger’s changes will ac­tu­ally bring the words closer to the orig­i­nal English text of “thou dost in us com­mand.”

How many Cana­di­ans know there are three other stan­zas - which are rarely sung - or have a clue as to what the words are? It’s per­haps just as well, be­cause many of us have trou­ble with the first verse.

When “O Canada” is sung at pub­lic func­tions, es­pe­cially at sport­ing events, the words should be dis­played on the score­board or re­play screen for the ben­e­fit of singer and fans. Noth­ing is more em­bar­rass­ing than when the soloist stum­bles and fans mum­ble the words.

De­spite Con­ser­va­tive stonewalling, Bill C-210 passed sec­ond read­ing in the Com­mons this week in a free vote of 219-79. It al­most cer­tainly won’t pass both the Com­mons and Se­nate be­fore Par­lia­ment ad­journs for the sum­mer.

The bill is sig­nif­i­cant for Cana­dian women. This year marks the 100th an­niver­sary of women get­ting the right to vote. They can run for pub­lic of­fice and die in com­bat. Next year is the 150th an­niver­sary of Con­fed­er­a­tion.

It’s time to stop ex­clud­ing women from their na­tional an­them.

The bill will pass. “O Canada” will be gen­der neu­tral. Women will fi­nally be able to sing the lyrics with­out cring­ing.

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