Off-key

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

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.

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