The English language Canadian national anthem may be changing, and well it should. There is now a bill before Parliament which, if adopted, would change the words “in all thy sons command” to “all of us command.” The MP proposing the bill argues that the changes would make the anthem more gender neutral.
Actually, it would make the anthem more gender inclusive.
One argument against changing the bill is that it is a “legacy passed down from our predecessors.” The argument is that the anthem should never change, that it is in a way “sacred.”
Hogwash. The original anthem’s words from 1908 were actually “True patriot love thou dost in us command.” The words were revised in 1913 to the current words. Not until 1980 was it made the official English national anthem. The words can be revised again.
Time’s change, and so should the anthem.
When the anthem was written in 1913, women didn’t even have the vote in Canada. In 1913, women couldn’t vote, serve in the military or police. There weren’t women politicians or bankers. There were no female judges or female Olympians. Women had almost no rights in a divorce.
Since 1913, Canada has had a female prime minister (Kim Campbell), as well as female premiers across the country. Women have headed major universities and corporations. Women fly fighter jets, head corporations, and start businesses. They serve as firefighters and paramedics.
In 1913, when the anthem was changed to “to all our sons command,” women weren’t even recognized as persons under the law in Canada. People of colour and First Nations were also shut out.
It’s not surprising that an anthem written when women were not even recognized as “persons” in Canada would use only the male-gender term “sons.” But to say that we should keep the male-only anthem because it was “passed down” ignores that times have changed. It ignores that our country recognizes male and female genders, as well as trans-gender rights.
The anthem should be changed as a celebration of all the changes we have made. Keeping it would be saying things were better in 1913. Count me as someone who is glad for the changes in gender equity over the last 100 years. Count me as someone would be happy to loss the word “sons”.
We need to celebrate all of the changes that have happened in Canada, from granting white women the right to vote in federal elections in 1918 to giving First Nations the right to vote in 1960. From decriminalizing homosexuality in Canada in 1969, to LGBTQ marriage, just over 10 years ago in July 2005.
We should celebrate how Canada has become more inclusive of all types of people, whether gender, sexual orientation, religion or ability.
Certainly people can argue that we should keep the words the same. But as a country, we are far more than “sons.” We have been able to transcend our differences and provide a place where people of all walks of life can reach their potential. That’s not to say that Canada is perfect, or that there aren’t other human rights issues that need to be worked on. But it does mean that we’ve come a long way in 100 years.
It’s time to ditch the “sons” and make our anthem more inclusive. It’s time the anthem reflects who we are today, to make the change to “all of us command” and celebrate the achievements of the last 100 years.
Contact your MP and let them know it’s time to recognize everyone in our national anthem. It’s time to sing “all of us command.”
— Nancy Bepple is a recovering politician and local news junkie. She expects she will never recover from her love of the banjo.