Seems there’s a lot of talk going around again about changing Canada’s national anthem to make it more gender neutral. Simply put, changing the line, “in all thy sons’ command” to “in all of us command.”
Now a lot of folks are going to jump up and scream holy murder, wave their arms, and cite how this change marks a fundamental tipping point in our pandering to outside influences. Somehow this one change is further evidence of how we’re giving up everything that makes us Canadians for the favour of a vocal minority. Insert whatever rhetoric you want – immigrants/outsiders are stealing our jobs, the stetson is a national symbol, we’re losing everything that makes us Canadian – it’s all the same.
I’ve always liked the idea that the world sees us as a beacon of acceptance and tolerance. This is especially poignant when current prevailing opinions seem all too ready to exclude and persecute. Since becoming an immigrant myself, I’ve discovered just how true this idea is. We aren’t perfect, but everyone I meet has nothing but good things to say about Canadians as a people and a nation.
While the UK threatens to slam its doors, while anti-immigrant and racial tensions have hit a fever pitch, my homeland manages to stand above time and time again. Granted, we didn’t fall over ourselves to let those in need through our gates, and we’re certainly not perfect, but Canada is still doing something positive. To the south, a loud-mouth on a soapbox is sowing hate and somehow gaining traction. Back home, Syrian refugees – recently forced from their own homes – are putting themselves in harms way to help the strangers who opened their doors for them.
So when I hear that there’s talk of changing a few small words in our national anthem, I’m all for it. Such a small gesture would certainly go a long way. Especially for a country with an international reputation for acceptance and tolerance.
Let’s keep in mind a few things. A: Canada’s anthem is already a slightly shoddy translation of a French song that is rife with metaphorical swords and crosses to bear. The original is a powerful song whose nature is only slightly captured in the English version. B: that very line was changed at the outset of WWI to reflect the nation’s religious values. It originally read “thou dost in us command”. In fact, the initial translation lacked much of the Christian undertones of the current one which … an argument for another day.
Most importantly, the song as we know it today has changed little since the 1920’s. It reflects the prevailing mentality of the era in which it was penned. Women in most of Canada had gained the right to vote a few short years prior to 1920 (save for Quebec, which would hold out for another 20 years). Many women were ousted from jobs they’ve fought hard to acquire, making room for the swathes of men returning from war. The depression was in full swing. And antiquated religious views were still the norm.
We’ve come a long way since then. We’re known the world over as a nation of acceptance and kind people. We’re among the first nations to understand the importance of parity in government. We’re accepted for our faults, and applauded for our progressive nature. Among the people I call friends and family, the prevailing attitude is one of acceptance of anyone whose views don’t negatively impact others. Live and let live, and so on.
At the end of the day, O Canada is just a song. It’s a symbol, for sure, and a tradition, most certainly. But it’s just a song. It’s only fitting that, just as we’ve grown and changed as a nation, so should our outward expressions of self and pride change to reflect this. Why cling to something that reflects the antiquated views of the past, when a small change would only help to illustrate how ready we are for the future?
Have I mentioned that it’s just a song?