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Canada’s anthem to become gender neutral after senate approves lyric change

In the official English version of O Canada, ‘in all thy sons command’ will be changed to ‘in all of us command’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 February, 2018, 12:16pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 February, 2018, 10:44pm

The Canadian Senate has passed legislation to make the English version of the national anthem, O Canada, gender neutral.

The bill calls for replacing the phrase “in all thy sons command” with “in all of us command.”

There have been 12 bills aimed at removing the word “sons” from O Canada since it became the anthem in 1980, but none has been approved – until now, Canadian broadcaster CBC reported.

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The changes are opposed by some Conservative lawmakers. The song, written by Robert Stanley Weir in 1908, has been changed before.

The latest bill, which was introduced by Liberal lawmaker Mauril Bélanger before her death in 2016, must be approved by the governor general – the representative in Canada of the country’s monarch Queen Elizabeth – before it becomes law.

Independent Ontario Senator Frances Lankin, the bill’s sponsor, said she was “very, very happy” after the vote Wednesday.

“There’s been 30 years plus of activity trying to make our national anthem, this important thing about our country, inclusive of all of us,” she said, according to the CBC.

“This may be small, it’s about two words, but it’s huge,” she added. “We can now sing it with pride knowing the law will support us in terms of the language. I’m proud to be part of the group that made this happen.”

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Conservative Manitoba Senator Don Plett, who opposed the bill, said it should have been put to a referendum.

“Clearly, I’m disappointed,” he said, according to the CBC. “It’s been a long fight. I believe the Canadian public wanted a say in our national anthem, just like they had in the great Canadian flag debate. This is an issue for the Canadian public to decide, not just a couple of Independent senators.”

The lengthy – and sometimes ugly – flag debate started in 1963 when Canada decided to create its own flag, dividing the nation over the design. The previous flag was the colonial power Britain’s Union flag. The Canadian flag bearing the maple leaf was eventually hoisted on Parliament Hill in 1965 after Canadians submitted thousands of designs.

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Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, who was part of a group of women including former prime minister Kim Campbell who started a campaign in 2013 to have the words of the anthem changed, tweeted: “Thank you @SenateCA! ‘In all of us command’: Senate passes bill approving #genderneutral anthem wording.”

Independent Quebec Senator Chantal Petitclerc, a former Paralympian who won 14 wheelchair racing gold medals, spoke of what the change would mean for athletes taking part in the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February and March.

“I had the privilege to be on the podium many times and I never had the chance to sing ‘In all of us command,’” she said, according to the CBC. “I can only imagine what they’ll feel when they’re on the step of that podium. It’s an amazing moment.”