In all of us command!

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Carol Hughes, MP
Carol Hughes, MP

Recently, the English lyrics to Canada’s national anthem have changed , while polling tells us the move was supported by 58% of the population, it’s no secret that it isn’t popular with everyone.  The new official version of the anthem has replaced the words, “in all thy sons command,” to, “in all of us command.”   The intention is to reflect how Canada has become an inclusive country that values its diversity and contributions from all its citizens. When the lyrics of the same passage were altered in 1913, women hadn’t even been granted the right to vote. Much has changed since then and the updated anthem reflects that.

The English lyrics to the national anthem were penned in 1908, although the song was commissioned in 1880 and the first lyrics were in French.  At that time, the section that has been recently amended was, “True patriot love thou dost in us command.”  The section became “in all thy sons command,” in 1913 which doesn’t support the notion that the changes were made to honour soldiers from the First World War.  Even if that were the case, our military history brims with the contribution of women who even serve in combat roles in our modern armed forces.

There have been many advances in gender equity since 1913. The federal right to vote came about in 1918, followed shortly by the right to run for office in 1921. The Persons Case that established the right of women to be appointed to the Senate took place in 1929, and is commemorated with a statue of the Famous Five on Parliament Hill.  By 1980 women were allowed to serve in the military and in 1982 women’s equality was enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It is interesting to note that the French lyrics – which are the originals – have never changed.  They are gender neutral to begin with and are not simply a translation of the English version.  To illustrate that, here is the official translation for the benefit of those who read this in English and may never have encountered them before.

O Canada!
Land of our ancestors
Glorious deeds circle your brow
For your arm knows how to wield the sword
Your arm knows how to carry the cross
Your history is an epic
Of brilliant deeds
And your valour steeped in faith
Will protect our homes and our rights
Will protect our homes and our rights.

When the late Mauril Belanger introduced his legislation to change the national anthem, it was the tenth time in over a 35 year period that Parliament had debated making the anthem gender neutral.  In some ways, it was only a matter of time before the debate succeeded.  By changing the words, we have ensured that more than 18 million Canadian women are now included in our national anthem, and when we sing about Standing on Guard for Thee, it includes all of our soldiers as well.

Happy Canada Day!

In all of us command!

Les paroles de la version anglaise de l’hymne national du Canada ont été modifiées récemment. Si les sondages montrent que 58 % de la population approuve de ce changement, ce n’est un secret pour personne que tous ne sont pas d’accord. Dans la nouvelle version officielle de l’hymne, les mots « in all thy sons command » sont remplacés par « in all of us command ». Ce changement tient compte du fait que le Canada est devenu un pays inclusif qui valorise sa diversité et l’apport de l’ensemble de ses citoyens et citoyennes. Lorsque les paroles du même passage ont été modifiées en 1913, les femmes n’avaient même pas obtenu le droit de vote encore. La situation a beaucoup évolué depuis, et l’hymne a été actualisé en conséquence.

Les paroles de l’hymne national en anglais ont été composées en 1908, mais le chant avait été commandé en 1880 et les paroles étaient d’abord en français. À l’époque, les mots qui ont été modifiés récemment étaient « True patriot love thou dost in us command ». Ils ont été remplacés par « in all thy sons command » en 1913, ce qui contredit l’affirmation selon laquelle le changement aurait été apporté en l’honneur des soldats de la Première Guerre mondiale. Même si c’était vrai, dans notre histoire militaire, il y a nombreux récits de la contribution de femmes, et celles-ci servent aujourd’hui au combat dans nos forces armées modernes.

De nombreuses avances ont été réalisées depuis 1913 en matière d’égalité entre les sexes. Le suffrage des femmes date de 1918, suivi peu après du droit de briguer une charge élective en 1921. L’affaire « personne » qui a établi le droit des femmes d’être nommées au Sénat est survenue en 1929; elle est commémorée par la statue des Célèbres cinq sur la Colline du Parlement. Depuis 1980, les femmes peuvent devenir militaires, et, en 1982, l’égalité de statut des femmes a été consacrée par la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés.

Il est intéressant de noter que les paroles en français, la version originale, n’ont jamais été modifiées. Elles sont neutres sur le plan du sexe et la version anglaise n’est pas une traduction littérale. Pour illustrer ce propos, voici la traduction anglaise officielle à l’intention de ceux qui liront ce texte en anglais et n’en ont peut-être jamais pris connaissance :

O Canada!
Land of our ancestors
Glorious deeds circle your brow
For your arm knows how to wield the sword
Your arm knows how to carry the cross
Your history is an epic
Of brilliant deeds
And your valour steeped in faith
Will protect our homes and our rights
Will protect our homes and our rights.

Le projet de loi du regretté Mauril Bélanger visant à modifier l’hymne national représentait la dixième tentative en plus de 35 ans pour éliminer toute distinction de genre dans l’hymne. En un sens, le débat devait un jour aboutir. En changeant les paroles, nous avons fait en sorte que plus de 18 millions de Canadiennes soient désormais incluses dans notre hymne national, et quand nous entonnons les mots « We stand on guard for thee », l’ensemble des soldats sont inclus aussi.

Bonne fête du Canada!

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Carol is a three-term MP who has worked hard for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing since being elected in 2008. In addition to her role as MP, Carol serves as Assistant Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole in Canada’s 42nd Parliament. A tireless advocate for the communities she serves, Carol was a leading figure in the fight to preserve ten federal constituencies for Northern Ontario. She has been a prominent spokesperson for passenger rail service, preserving postal service outlets, and good jobs in the region. Carol has worked with First Nations on local and national issues and served as the New Democrat critic for First Nations Health prior to assuming the responsibilities of Assistant Deputy Speaker. With decades of labour experience, Carol understands the priorities of hardworking families. She has introduced legislation to expand access to Employment Insurance benefits and to require mandatory reporting of workplace accidents and occupational diseases. She has also worked with veterans on legislation that will create a Defence of Canada Medal to honour those who served domestically to protect Canada during the Cold War. Committed to serving all her constituents, Carol maintains full constituency offices in both Kapuskasing and Elliot Lake. She also holds regular clinics in communities throughout the riding. Before entering politics, Carol was a regional representative for the Canadian Labour Congress. Earlier, she worked for Probation and Parole Services in Elliot Lake and Youth Justice Services in Sudbury. A long-time community volunteer and activist, Carol lived in Elliot Lake for nearly three decades with her husband Kieth. And as a proud mother and grandmother, Carol is committed to building a better Canada for future generations.

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