Canadian National Anthem Sexism Rewrite: Why Canadians Aren’t Happy About It

This week, part of the Canadian government gave the okay to rewrite the lyrics of the Canadian national anthem to be more gender-neutral. The Canadian public, who is not being consulted on the decision, is not so hot to change their national anthem, which they see as an immense source of patriotic pride.

For those not familiar with the Canadian national anthem, a portion of the lyrics read “true patriot love, in all thy sons command.” The government wants to change it, though, to “true patriot love, in all of us command” in order to fit in with a more modern, all-inclusive worldview.

The Canadian parliament itself, which is the largest and most influential government obstacle that stood in the way of the national anthem-changing bill, is heavily in favor of its passing. In fact, the vote taken after the bill’s second reading was a whopping 219-79 win in favor of the change, reports Huffington Post Canada.

Christine Moore, a democratic member of the parliament, told Canadian TV station MRC-TV that the national anthem tweaking is only a very small change but will have a large and positive impact on Canadian women’s rights.

“We are in 2016. The Canadian population will understand why we want to make the change. It is not a big change, and there will not be a big difference in the national anthem, but the difference is significant for women all across Canada.”

Another MP (member of parliament), Greg Fergus, agreed that the Canadian national anthem needs to include women more explicitly and also brought up the fact that it is 2016.

“This year, 2016, marks the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. Next year we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. It would be nice if we stopped excluding women from their national anthem,” Fergus said.

Despite what MPs may say, though, Canadian citizens have not been reacting positively to the national anthem alteration.

In a scathing piece appearing in The Toronto Sun, Candice Malcolm says that the decision to rewrite the national anthem is not helping women’s rights at all. In fact, she says, it is an “insult to women.”

“We don’t need a bunch of self-righteous politicians in Ottawa to make women feel included. Women are already included.”

Malcolm also cites several studies carried out in 2012 and 2013 that show roughly 75 percent of Canadians are opposed to changing the Canadian national anthem and believe the national anthem “is a great source of national pride.”

“They don’t want to debate the issue, they don’t care what Canadians think about the matter, they just want to rewrite our Canadian heritage to suit today’s politically correct environment,” Malcolm writes.

Canadian National Anthem Gender-Neutral Change Is Controversial
Even some of the MPs fall on the same side of the debate as Malcolm and, judging by the studies she calls upon, the majority of the Canadian public.

Erin O’Toole is an example of one of them, arguing that the national anthem being changed is tantamount to stomping on the Canadian flag.

“It is wrong for a country to tread on its heritage and history, even when some of those heritage symbols, songs, and anthems may seem a little dated when looking at it through the lens of 2016,” O’Toole argues. “That is really what we have come to with a debate about our national anthem… It is critical for us to learn from that history, but changing things to suit today, with respect to some of the early symbols of this country, is not a way we can show we have evolved.”

It looks highly likely, though, that the MPs who do want to change the national anthem to be more gender-neutral are the ones who will win out. When the bill was passed in a landslide vote, there was a standing ovation from both sides of the room – democratic and conservative – and an actual spontaneous group rendition of “O Canada,” the name of the national anthem, including the amended lyrics.

Those backing the bill even point to a May 2016 study that goes directly in opposition to those quoted by Malcolm and states that 62 percent of Canadians are in favor of the change.

Whether those numbers are accurate or not, it looks like the Canadian government will have the final say on the national anthem issue, and their stance seems fairly clear.

What do you think? Is the Canadian national anthem due for an update, or is changing a national anthem blasphemous to a country’s heritage? Make yourself heard in the comments section.

[Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images]