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Stand on guard for O Canada!

March 5, 2010 Leave a comment

UIPDATE: Prime Minister’s Office announces no change in O Canada — “Public has spoken loud and clear.” 

Have a heart for poor old Robert Stanley Weir. How would you feel if your words were rewritten every generation or so — simply because some people thought they could improve on the original?

The fuss-up over the Harper government’s proposal to change Canada’s national anthem, O Canada, is generally being panned across the country. (The official story of the anthem is here).

For anyone who hasn’t heard, the subject came up in the Throne Speech at the opening of Parliament this week. The line that supposedly needs changing:

“True patriot love in all thy son’s commands.”

It’s suggested we revert to Mr. Weir’s original words, which were changed when O Canada was officially adopted in 1980. They read:

“True patriot love thou dost in us command.”

Before we go any further, give a listen to O Canada as it should be sung:

Stirring, isn’t it?

The reaction to taking what some see as gender bias out of the anthem falls into three camps:

  1. There’s far more important things — such as jobs and climate change — for Parliament to consider than this non-issue
  2. Good idea – daughters as well as sons stand on guard for O Canada
  3. Leave well enough alone – the anthem speaks to our history as well as our present-day attitudes

As a guy with three daughters, I’m all for gender equality. But I’m in Camp No. 3.  A national anthem must express the heritage of a nation. The Star Spangled Banner, for example, speaks of “bombs bursting in air.” I don’t think any Americans want to see bombs over their cities, but it is worthwhile to remember their country was born in revolution and strife.

So it is with the line in our anthem about our “home and native land.” Some are saying this needs to be dropped because Canada is not the native land of our new citizens. My response is that Canada will become the native land of their children. For them, our anthem stands as an ode to the future as well as to the past.

Few stories have touched off more comments on the news sites of the web. I liked this reaction from a reader of The National Post:

If anything should be changed in O Canada, it should be the deletion of the reference to God. Not all of us believe in a god and as such any type of religious reference should be kept out of the public domain.

Finally, there are the cynical among us who see the anthem dust-up as a clever move by the Harperites to divert public attention. More likely, it’s another attempt to carry political correctness to the extreme — while picking up a few votes along the way.

So as a public service (and because many of us aren’t sure of the words of the current version), I’ve checked out the words and history of O Canada in Scholastic Canada’s beautifully illustrated book on the anthem. Here’s the refrain. Memorize it!

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

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