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Opinion: You cannot have O Canada without the ‘us’

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Opinion: You cannot have O Canada without the ‘us’

It can certainly be said that the Canadian national anthem is well embedded in the minds of Canadians, from when we stood and sang in it in our homeroom classes to the hockey games we attend as adults. The anthem is something we are exposed to for our whole lives, and with the recent revisions to the anthem to make it more gender-neutral, the anthem has come to the forefront of the news, gaining prominence after being such an automatic tradition.

The change looks fairly simple — just an edit of the line “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command.” However, the revision has sparked a debate, largely consisting of two main sides: those who say Canada has gone too far, and those who say Canada has not gone far enough.

Those against the change argue that the revision is unnecessary and only serves to cause undue confusion with an anthem that has been so ingrained in peoples’ minds. Some individuals also mistakenly say that the anthem has not needed changes before and question why it should be altered now.

First, supporters argue that the choice to use more gender-inclusive language actually demonstrates a Canadian trait and promotes tolerance and respect for gender equality, as well as an awareness of how such a line can both exclude and offend. The change is also viewed as a step away from the male-dominated society of the past.

Second, this is not the first time there has been a substantial revision to the anthem; on the contrary, the anthem has gone through multiple changes. For example, the first anthem was actually “God Save the Queen” instead of “O Canada,” which was only adopted in 1980 after being an unofficial anthem alongside another song, “The Maple Leaf Forever.”

At the other end of the debate sits those who support the change but wish for it to be revised even further, with quite a bit more inclusivity. The most significant argument made by supporters is that the anthem still holds substantial religious notions in the line “God keep our land,” which still harks back to a close-minded society and excludes any other religions and their respective beliefs.

Overall, it seems the majority of those in favor of the gender-neutral anthem now desire a religion-neutral anthem. Personally, the side I agree with is in favor of a more inclusive anthem. I have always believed that the anthem belongs to every Canadian, and in making the anthem more inclusive, we can all be more unified and invested in what we are singing.

Whether the Canadian government will make this next change is uncertain as of right now, but I can say with confidence that the current revision was well implemented and a step in the right direction. Change takes time, and with something that people hold dear to them, revisions need to be done in a way that is not too drastic or too quick. Timing is pivotal when it comes to these changes, and I believe it is only a matter of time before the anthem is revised again, because we as Canadians will keep on changing, keep on growing, and keep on evolving.

Anthems are about coming together to sing as one people in harmony, with one heart beating in time with the next. Losing such a feeling, just because of a couple of words being changed for an even more inclusive atmosphere, would be a terrible loss indeed.


Photography by Martin Duggan. Edited. CC BY.