Canada makes national anthem gender neutral

OTTAWA, Canada (AFP) — Canadians will soon be singing a new tune after parliament passed a bill to change the lyrics of the national anthem to make it gender neutral.

Only one line in O Canada was amended, from “True patriot love in all thy sons command” to “True patriot love in all of us command.”

But it has caused quite a stir.

“It’s about two words,” Senator Frances Lankin told reporters. “But it’s huge in terms of one of our major national symbols, the anthem we sing with pride about our country.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the move “another positive step towards gender equality,” while feminist author Margaret Atwood, who has been pressing for this since the 1980s, tweeted her thanks to lawmakers.

Others decried the new lyrics and vowed to continue to sing the older version.

“Disappointed to hear the Liberals changed our national anthem. Somethings (sic) shouldn’t change,” said MP Bob Saroya in a Twitter message.

The late MP Mauril Belanger had proposed the change to the English language version of the anthem.

Belanger was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, shortly after his party, under Trudeau, took power in 2015.

The proposal passed the House two months before Belanger’s death in 2016, and late Wednesday the Senate added its support for the bill.

Now it needs only the governor general’s signature to become law, which is a formality, but a date for that has not yet been set.

“It will receive royal ascent in due course,” Sabrina Atwal, spokeswoman for government House leader Bardish Chagger, told AFP.

The French version of O Canada, which has not been revised, was originally commissioned by Quebec’s lieutenant governor in 1880. The English version followed in 1906.

In 1914 the phrase “thou dost in us command” was changed to “in all thy sons command.” A verse was added a decade later.

There have been several attempts in recent decades to further amend the lyrics of the song — which only officially became Canada’s anthem in 1980 — but they all failed largely due to the entrenched opposition of Conservative lawmakers.

Today the anthem is sung at the beginning of sporting events and in schools across Canada at the start of classes, often mixing both French and English versions.

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