Should O’ Canada drop “thy sons”?

For the third time in recent years, MPs will vote on whether to change words in O Canada

  • Feb. 14, 2016 6:00 p.m.

Kamloops This Week

Should Canada’s national anthem become more gender-neutral?

Kamloops’ MP hasn’t made up her mind.

For the third time in recent years, MPs will vote on whether to change words in O Canada from “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command,” via to a private members’ bill from Ottawa-Vanier Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger.

Belanger introduced the same bill during the last parliamentary session, where last year it was narrowly defeated by the majority Conservative government.

While all opposition Liberal and New Democrat MPs and seven Conservative MPs supported the proposed wording change, Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Conservative MP Cathy McLeod voted against it.

This time, however, McLeod said she is still deciding whether to support the new wording.

“I can actually see both sides of the issue,” she told KTW. “Some people like the tradition, but other people feel in this day and age that gender-neutral language would be more appropriate.”

A new poll on her website, cathymcleod.ca, asks constituents whether they feel the anthem should or should not be changed

McLeod said she is also interested in hearing from people with opinions on the matter by phone or in person at her office at 6-275 Seymour St.

She’s hoping for a sizeable number of responses to her question.

“If I have a strong response, I’ll certainly let that guide my vote,” McLeod said.

The Conservatives did support a more gender-neutral version of O Canada in 2010, when it was included in the Stephen Harper government’s throne speech.

At the time, it recommended replacing “in all thy sons command” with “thou dost in us command,” the wording when the lyrics were first penned in 1908.

Author Robert Stanley Weir revised the work a few years later, giving us the line in use today.

While the start of the First World War and the accompanying swell of patriotism is often given as a reason for the change, the Canadian Encyclopedia notes the campaign for women’s suffrage was “at its most militant and controversial” at the time Weir reworked the line.

“There was significant disagreement with it, so we walked away from it at the time,” McLeod said of the 2010 Conservative effort.

 

In 2002, Liberal senator Vivienne Poy introduced her own unsuccessful private member’s bill on the matter, using the same phrasing later preferred by the Conservative party.