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Canadian Senate Votes To Make National Anthem Gender-Neutral

On Wednesday, the Canadian Senate passed bill C-210, which aims to change the lyrics in “O Canada,” the Canadian national anthem, to make it gender-neutral. The bill had first been introduced in the Senate in June 2016.

The bill was introduced as a private member’s bill by member of Parliament Mauril Belanger; he is no longer a member of the Canadian Parliament as he died in 2016 after fighting Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The bill stipulates that the lyric, “True patriot love in all thy sons command” be altered to “True patriot love in all of us command.”

O Canada was originally commissioned in 1880 for the Saint Jean-Baptiste ceremony, and was composed by Calixa Lavalee with lyrics by Judge Adolphe-Basile Rpothier. The original French lyrics were translated to English in 1906; in 1908 Robert Stanley Weir offered another translation that has become the official version, although it is not a literal translation. Weir’s lyrics have been revised twice; he wrote “thou dost in us command” in 1908, then changed them to “in all thy sons command” in 1914. The last version was written in 1980, when the song officially became Canada’s national anthem.

This is not the first time there has been a move to make the lyrics gender neutral. In June 1990, the Toronto City Council voted for the same change as C-210. In 2002, Senator Vivienne Poy introduced a bill to change “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command.” In 2010, Governor General Michaelle Jean spoke from the throne and announced a plan to have the parliament review the lyrics, but a poll showed three-quarters of Canadians objected, prompting the Canadian Cabinet to abandon the plan.

The original French lyrics have no mention of the phrase “In all of us command,” instead reading, “Glorious deeds circle your brow.”

The bill now heads to the Governor General for royal assent.

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