The Senate of Canada has finally passed legislation to make the Canadian National anthem, O Canada, gender neutral. It has only taken a couple of years (or decades, depending on how you look at it).
It has been a much- debated topic, reviving around the use of the word “sons” in the anthem in use for decades. Was a change really necessary? Does the masculine not include the feminine, as we were taught in school?
There are, I hope, higher priorities for government. Especially since the debate over the anthem probably isn’t over with this one small change. We may no longer sing “from all our sons command,” replacing it with “in all of us command,” but the truly offensive language in the anthem has yet to be addressed.
I use the word “offensive” in its Biblical sense. What non-Canadians (and perhaps even many Canadians) don’t seem to realize is that the French lyrics to the anthem are not a translation of the English. Or more properly, the English is not a translation of the French. The French lyrics, unchanged for more than a century, are the original. They are decidedly, even militantly, Christian, which Canadian society isn’t anymore, if indeed it ever was.
Most of the time we sing only the first verse of the anthem. In French we read “Car ton bras sait porter l’épée. Il sait porter la croix!” Which translates: “For your arm knows how to wield the sword, Your arm knows how to carry the cross.” To me that is distinctly Christian imagery. Definitely not politically correct.
The other verses, which I admit I have never heard sung, include lines such as: “Let us know how to be a people of brothers, Under the yoke of faith. And repeat, like our fathers, The battle cry: “For Christ and King!”” (I have heard Christian themed English verses for O Canada, but I don’t think they have any sort of official recognition and are not original. Mind you, the official lyrics aren’t original either and do include the words “God keep our land.”
I don’t think there would be much fuss if the French lyrics were changed. Written at a time when most francophone Canadians were deeply Roman Catholic, the words are a relic of a practically forgotten era. I’m sure there are many who would like to see the reference to God removed from the English lyrics also. (I suspect God finds the mention of His name a little hypocritical on the part of a country that seems to be straying farther from Him with each passing day.)
So why was the demand for change focused only on “sons?” Is God considered sacrosanct? And what about those French lyrics? Is political correctness unilingual?
Sometime soon I expect someone will introduce a Bill in Parliament to further amend the lyrics of O Canada to remove the Christian references. When your country stands for nothing you don’t want a reminder than in the past it had meaning and values.