There are times when it is prudent to stand on guard to protect tradition, but other times when the old guard needs to be replaced to reflect our country’s evolving history and social development. A group of prominent Canadian women have launched a new campaign to introduce a more gender-neutral version of our national anthem.
A website – restoreouranthem.ca — will go live this week, with endorsements from former prime minister Kim Campbell, author Margaret Atwood, Senator Nancy Ruth and Sally Goddard, mother of Nichola Goddard, the first female Canadian soldier to be killed in combat. She died in Afghanistan in 2006.
The campaigners are seeking to have Robert Stanley Weir’s O Canada lyric, “in all thy sons command,” replaced with “in all of us command.”
They argue that these words more closely reflect the original English lyrics that Weir altered, “in all thou dost command,” to more gender specific words before the First World War – at a time when men, and only men, were being asked to put their lives on the line for their country.
While there are some who would argue the wording change is an insignificant item that has been exaggerated out of proportion, there can be no doubt that the meaning of words matter. And as it stands now, this particular wording in our anthem – the powerful musical expression of our supposed collective national identity – clearly carries sexist connotations. For as noted on the website, whenever it is sung, half the population is effectively excluded.
The anthem should reflect the values which Canadians respect, and a cornerstone of these values is equality among citizens.
A change in our anthem is not unprecedented and rightly reflects the contributions of both genders to our nation.