CPereira said it wasn’t a political statement. Of course it was. It was a s elfish, stupid mistake.
anadians know all about the passions stirred up when someone tinkers with “O Canada.” Our national anthem is an important symbol and even the smallest change is hotly debated.
Any change to the lyrics merits a thorough discussion. It happened earlier this year when two words were altered to make the anthem gender neutral. It took more than six years before Parliament agreed to modernize “O Canada.”
So, the outrage that swept the nation last week, when a member of The Tenors substituted an entirely new line to make a political statement, was understandable. It came on one of the biggest stages in sports - the 87th annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Pre-game ceremonies Tuesday were awash in tradition and patriotism. Flags unfurled, jets screaming overhead, military units and honour guards standing at attention. Our country was honoured in San Diego to salute the Toronto Blue Jays of the American League and to recognize five Jays who stood on the baseline waiting to hear their anthem.
As the Canadian flag waved proudly, the internationally acclaimed quartet based in Victoria, B.C. launched into “O Canada.” Soon, all heck broke loose. Remigio Pereira sang, “We’re all brothers and sisters, all lives matter to the great.” The normal lyric is “With glowing hearts we see thee rise, the True North strong and free.” There was an immediate nervous buzz in the crowd. Can anyone imagine the fallout if the person singing the U.S. anthem attempted something similar?
The United States is on edge with the recent police shootings of black men. The murder of five Dallas police officers left the nation tense just as an acrimonious presidential election is heating up.
What the U.S. didn’t need to hear was a Canadian singer making a political statement that referenced these recent deaths. In a misguided attempt to say all lives matter, Pereira’s lyric change seemed to suggest to some that black lives do not matter.
What Canada didn’t need to hear was our anthem intentionally distorted on a world stage. Canadians woke up Wednesday morning expecting to hear a quick baseball score but instead were shocked by the growing uproar over the anthem.
Other Tenors expressed remorse and offered an apology for the actions of this lone wolf. Pereira said it wasn’t a political statement. Of course it was. It was a selfish, stupid mistake. And it backfired badly.
The federal government is also unhappy, saying the word changes were “inappropriate and disrespectful.”
There was some good news Tuesday night. The American League won, and if the Blue Jays capture the pennant, they will have home field advantage in the World Series.
And now, a word of advice to anthem singers: stick to the lyrics. Leave the political statements to elected officials.