Prominent women in Canada are agitating to change the wording of our national anthem. Author, Margaret Atwood, and former prime minister, Kim Campbell, are amongst those who are lending their voices to the campaign to rid the song of what they consider sexist language. Apparently, they are offended by the line “in all thy sons command”.
We Canadians are constantly making changes to our national symbols. In fact, we seem to be a bit unsure of our real identity. The present flag isn’t the one that flew over my elementary school and this wouldn’t be the first time that our national anthem was altered. The offending line in the original anthem, written by Robert Stanley Weir in 1908, read “thou dost in us command” but in 1914, Weir himself changed it to its present wording. Considering that, at that time in our history, women were not yet legally considered persons, this could possibly be construed as a sexist sentiment, implying that only male loyalty was being invoked, but does anyone truly believe that it means that today?
Rather than reverting to the archaic language of the original line, “in all of us command” is being proposed as the new gender-neutral version. While I don’t really have a problem with this, I can’t help feeling that only a very insecure woman would actually feel excluded by the present wording. If women like Atwood and Campbell are truly concerned about the plight of women, I’d far rather see them take a global view and speak out against issues that really matter; issues like poverty, illiteracy, female genital mutilation, forced marriage and honour killing that continue to endanger the lives of girls and women in many parts of the world.
According to Atwood, “Restoring these lyrics to gender-neutral is not only an easy fix to make our anthem inclusive for all Canadians, but it’s also long overdue.” Really? That one little change would make it all-inclusive? What about the second line, “Our home and native land”? Does that include our 6.8 million foreign-born residents? More than 20% of our population is not native to Canada.
And then, I almost hate to mention “God keep our land” which was also not part of the original song. As a Christian, I certainly don’t want to see that part deleted but does it include the many Canadians who follow other gods or no god at all?
Regardless of how our national anthem is worded, I’m very thankful to be Canadian right now. In many countries, our life savings would be rapidly eaten up by the cost of my medical care and our retirement would be in jeopardy. Instead, when we meet with the doctors tomorrow to discuss treatment, we don’t have to worry about whether or not we can afford it. In Canada, we don’t pay a cent! Now, that’s really something to sing about!