Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

O Canada lyrics -- ignorance can be bliss

  • Print

Margaret Atwood, Kim Campbell and other female notables want to restore gender equality in O Canada. But they might wish to add to their list a long-overdue change in the anthem involving the version in our other official language.

This is not something completely out of sight and out of mind for anglophone Canadians. There are two lines always sung in French across the country when the need is felt to display our bilingual nature: "Car ton bras sait porter l'epee, il sait porter la croix."

Yet most Anglos have no idea of the implications of those words, and that includes many of the folks arguing for gender neutrality in the song.

The poetic translation has it as Canada with an arm ready to wield the sword, it is ready to carry the cross. The literal translation is Canada knows how to carry the sword and the cross.

Written in 1880 for a St. Jean Baptiste Day ceremony, the French lyrics' sentiments are relics of a different era, proclaiming this country is advancing Christian civilization and boasting implicitly of converting "les sauvages" with the sword ever at the ready.

Meantime, our Canadian Museum for Human Rights will be devoting considerable space to show the consequences for aboriginal Canadians. The cutting edge in multimedia splendours will be used to throw light on the effects of the squalid triumphalist doctrine that created the misery members of First Nations experience.

But all the while, there are beaming parents and grandparents listening as fresh-faced young teachers from Saint John's to Victoria sit back proudly as their young charges sing: "Car ton bras sait porter l'epee, il sait porter la croix."

Yes, ignorance can be bliss.

Now consider some of the fine words from the distinguished ladies' Restore Our Anthem website, dedicated to gender: "O Canada is something that represents our country on a global scale and should therefore be inclusive and indicative of our population and our attitude towards (it)."

One would think those who favour an inclusive multicultural Canada might see "il sait porter la croix" at least as great a barrier as the lack of gender equality.

The Christian triumphalism is not exactly welcoming for those Canadians who don't wish to "carry the cross." And let us remember we have no official church, no state religion. Indeed, the English version of O Canada asks God to keep our land glorious and free, but that reference is not linked to a specific religion.

Why hasn't the knowing-how-to carry-the-cross line ever been amended? Would this notion have survived in the English version? Likely not.

The answer probably has something to do with politicians not wanting to give Quebec separatists something to exploit. Not that separatists actually care about O Canada, and church strength and attendance have never been lower, but anytime the PQ and the Bloc find a wedge issue, they'll take it. That's what their Quebec Charter of Values is about.

But perhaps calling for some courage in our leaders is a goal which should in all of us command.

ed.feuer@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2013 A17

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Christmas Cheer Board hamper kickoff

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A golfer looks for his ball in a water trap at John Blumberg Golf Course Friday afternoon as geese and goslings run for safety- See Joe Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge- Day 24– June 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A mother goose has chosen a rather busy spot to nest her eggs- in the parking lot of St Vital Centre on a boulevard. Countless cars buzz by and people have begun to bring it food.-Goose Challenge Day 06 - May 08, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the federal government force band chiefs and councillors to disclose their salary information?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google