No change to O Canada, says PMO

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Locals opposed move to change anthem

St. Albert’s member of Parliament says he’s glad that the federal government has decided to leave O Canada alone.

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean gave the Speech from the Throne Wednesday, restarting Parliament after a controversial prorogation. The speech laid out the Conservative government’s agenda for the coming session.

In addition to plans to reduce the deficit, create jobs and fight white-collar crime, it also proposed changing the lyrics to the national anthem.

“Our government will also ask Parliament to examine the original gender-neutral English wording of the national anthem,” Jean said, an apparent reference to the words “in all thy sons command.”

But as this paper went to press Friday afternoon, the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement saying they wouldn’t change the words after all.

Canadians have said loud and clear that they don’t want to open the O Canada issue, said press secretary Dimitri Soudas in an email. “The government will not proceed any further to change our national anthem.”

Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber said he was glad the PMO made this decision. No one had ever complained to him about the poltical correctness of the anthem, and the people who have contacted him since the announcement liked the current lyrics.

“I love the anthem and think it’s great,” Rathgeber said. “If the PMO has made [this decision], that’s certainly on side with what my constituents are telling me.”

Many versions

There have been many versions of O Canada over the years, said Ken Munro, history professor at the University of Alberta.

Originally performed in French on the Plains of Abraham in 1880, O Canada was later loosely translated into English by a number of people. “The English didn’t want a direct translation of French,” Munro explained — the French version was full of French nationalism and Catholicism, which anglophones didn’t like.

According to Canadian Heritage, the second line of the original French anthem reads, “Thy brow is wreathed with a glorious garland of flowers,” when translated. Judge Robert Stanley Weir changed this to, “True patriot love in all thy sons command,” in his 1914 translation, which itself was a change from his 1908 translation that read, “thou dost in us command.”

This was not the first time Canadians have tried to revise the song’s lyrics, Munro said. In 1967, a government committee inserted the lines “stand on guard” and “from far and wide” into the song. Senator Vivienne Poy tried to change “thy sons” to “of us” with a private member’s bill in 2002. Canada didn’t even have official English lyrics to the song until 1980 when the government passed the National Anthem Act.

Locals like ‘thy sons’

Former senator Thelma Chalifoux said she opposed Poy’s change while she was in office and opposes them now. “We have come of age in my opinion,” she said, referring to the national pride shown recently at the Winter Olympics, “and to change the anthem now would be a tragedy.”

O Canada is about nationality, not gender, she said, and changing its words would change what it means to be Canadian. “I know who I am as a woman. I don’t need to have everything changed.”

And the government has more important items to spend its time and money on, said Ivan Mayer, head of the Riel Business Park Association. “How much are they going to spend on that to change one word?”

Thy what's command?

There are many versions of O Canada that feature something other than “True patriot love in all thy sons command.” Some alternatives are:
o Thy brow is crown'd with leaves of red and gold
o From echoing hills our anthems proudly ring
o Thy worth we praise all other lands above
Note that these are English variants; the French lyrics have stayed the same for over a century.
Source: Canadian Heritage

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.