Canada Is One Step Closer to Making Its National Anthem Gender-Neutral

· Updated on May 28, 2018

The Canadian Senate voted on Wednesday to remove gender-specific language in its national anthem.

Written by Robert Stanley Weir in 1908, the third line of the English-language version of “O’ Canada” reads “true patriot love in all thy sons command.” Senate bill C-210, which was approved in a voice vote yesterday, would alter the line to “true patriot love in all of us command.”

The proposal was first put forward in the upper house of the legislature two years ago, but has stalled multiple times due to conservative opposition.

Before being adopted by the Canadian government as the official anthem in 1980, the song went through numerous changes. “O’ Canada” was originally composed in the late 19th century by Calixa Lavallée to celebrate St. Jean-Baptiste Day. A former Union Army soldier who served in the American Civil War, he set the music to a poem by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier.

This is one of dozens of attempts to excise the word “sons” from the tune, although the gendered reference is not present in the original French.

The bill’s sponsor celebrated Wednesday’s vote as overdue progress.

“There’s been 30 years plus of activity trying to make our national anthem, this important thing about our country, inclusive of all of us,” Sen. Frances Lankin, an independent lawmaker from Ontario, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). “This may be small, it’s about two words, but it’s huge. We can now sing it with pride knowing the law will support us in terms of the language.”

“I’m proud to be part of the group that made this happen,” she added.

One of the bill’s leading opponents, Manitoba conservative Sen. Don Plett, said he was “disappointed” by the vote. He felt the issue should have been decided in a national referendum.

“It’s been a long fight,” Plett told the CBC. “I believe the Canadian public wanted a say in our national anthem, just like they had in the great Canadian flag debate. This is an issue for the Canadian public to decide, not just a couple of Independent senators.”

This is only the latest move by the Canadian government to become more gender-inclusive.

In August, the country announced that it would be rolling out a gender-neutral option on passports, making it the first in North America to allow an “X” for those who identify outside the “M” and “F” binary. Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, and Pakistan have made similar moves on travel documentation.

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