MP tries again to make anthem include Canada’s daughters

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OTTAWA - An Ottawa Liberal MP is pushing Parliament to make Canada's national anthem gender-neutral.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/05/2016 (2397 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA – An Ottawa Liberal MP is pushing Parliament to make Canada’s national anthem gender-neutral.

Mauril Belanger’s private members’ bill proposes to change the second line of the anthem from “True patriot love in all thy sons command” to “True patriot love in all of us command.”The lyrics as they are currently written exclude women and are therefore out of date, Belanger said.

This is the fifth legislative attempt to change the lyrics since 2002, and the second by Belanger. His previous attempt fell short when his bill was defeated on second reading a year ago.

FRED CHARTRAND / THE CANADIAN PRESS Liberal MP Mauril Belanger is seen in a March 2016 file photo.

“Changing only two words gives Canada an inclusive anthem that respects who we were and what we have become as a country,” Belanger said, using a voice-to-text app on his iPad to deliver his speech.

Belanger, who has represented Ottawa-Vanier in the House of Commons since 1995, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) last fall, shortly after he was re-elected. He has since lost the ability to speak and has been hospitalized since March. He arrived on Parliament Hill in an ambulance and delivered his speech from a wheelchair, with former physician and Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett at his side.

He was given a standing ovation when he was called on to speak and many colleagues spoke of his courage even when they disagreed with his bill.

Belanger noted the original lyrics written by Robert Stanley Weir in 1908 did not mention sons, instead the line read “thou dost in us command.” It was changed to “sons” in 1913, he believes to reflect preparations for men to fight in the First World War.

In 2010, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper included a plan to change the lyrics of the national anthem in the Speech from the Throne to make it gender neutral. The plan was met with such a swift backlash Harper’s office backed down within two days. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair did not support the idea then, but a year later, NDP deputy leader Libby Davies introduced a private members’ bill that would have changed the lyrics.

Manitoba Conservative MP Larry Maguire was the first to respond to Belanger’s speech Friday. He said the intention of the bill is “well meaning” but “rewriting the lyrics of our national anthem in the name of political correctness goes too far.”

Maguire said the anthem has served Canadians well for many decades, and wondered if a private members’ bill can change the anthem then the maple leaf or even the “mighty beaver” might be next.

“Some maybe upset that the almighty beaver won’t stop chopping down trees so that National Symbols of Canada Act must be amended to swap out a beaver for an animal far less destructive,” he said.

NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson said Maguire’s speech was appalling.

“I am ashamed to have heard those words,” she said.

She said every New Democrat supports the bill.

A vote on second reading was not scheduled because unanimous consent to do so was not given by the Conservatives. The legislation will now go to the back of the pack of private members’ bills and won’t come up for further debate or a vote unless another MP agrees to trade spots with Belanger.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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