A reasoned argument (aka rant) about the lack of gender inclusiveness in our not-very-ancient Canadian national anthem.
O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
As I worked away, head down, I heard those words from the basement TV a few times during the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championship, signalling a Canadian win. Those are the words we all grew up singing, but it seems that they’re not good enough for everyone any more.
Last October, Margaret Atwood and some other female notables launched a campaign to change the words of the anthem. The basis of their appeal is gender inclusiveness, but they also cleverly appeal to tradition. Just before the First World War, the anthem’s author changed the words from their original gender-neutral form: True patriot love thou dost in us command. So what these self-styled Canadian patriots are suggesting is not a change so much as it is a restoration. Yeah, that’s it.
Of course, they’re not so fond of tradition that they want to restore the archaic phraseology of that more inclusive version. No, what they’re asking for is a simpler rendering, more suited to this modern age: True patriot love, in all of us command.
Their plan is for us to petition Parliament to amend the National Anthem Act of 1980. I didn’t even know that there was a National Anthem Act, but I should have guessed. These things can’t be left to amateurs.
Or can they?
Without the benefit of any legislative authority, I’ve been singing ‘in all of us command’ since I was old enough to take offence at the standard version: forty years at least, I figure. How did I happen to hit on exactly the same wording that would be proposed more than once over the next forty years? Hey, the revised (I mean, ‘restored’) wording isn’t rocket science.
As for the whole petition thing, my impulse is usually more to go with what Gandhi said: Be the change you want to see in the world. I figure I can trust politicians to do the sensible thing or I can just do it my own self. Most days, the choice seems clear.
Yet, with due respect to Gandhi, I can’t say it’s worked great so far. When Canadians get all choked up and burst into song as the flag is raised over sweaty but jubilant hockey players or playerettes, it’s still those century-old words I hear.
And you know what? They really aren’t good enough for everyone any more.