How much difference do two little words make? Some people believe it to be the difference between oppression and equality. This idea is the driving force behind the Restore Our Anthem movement, the leaders of which include Canadian greats like Kim Campbell and Margaret Atwood. They are looking to modify the current national anthem to make it more inclusive through gender neutrality.
People have been attempting to change the lyrics to “O Canada” for years to emulate how far we have come in the battle for gender equality. A simple change from “in all our sons command” to “in all of us command”. This modification would not only neutralize the phrase, but also bring us closer to the anthem’s original wording. The original version of the anthem initially contained the phrase “thou dost in us command”, and was modified to the current exclusive lyrics in 1913. In recent decades, there have been previous attempts to try and change the lyrics to convey more gender neutrality, but none have been successful. Repeatedly unsuccessful, despite the fact that the suggested change would both restore part of our history and make the English version closer to the – already gender-neutral – French version.
History, however, is not the only reason that the change is necessary. Women still suffer from discrimination on a daily basis. However, it is not something that the government should contribute to. They should do everything in their power to bring our country closer to the equality that we have strived for decades for. With only roughly 25% of parliamentary seats being currently held by women, change requires the cooperation of male members of parliament as well.
Some argue that it is ridiculous for the Canadian government to waste their time and taxpayer money on something so trivial. However, its triviality is why the change is crucial. We need to prove that gender equality is important across the board, and not just on high-profile issues like workplace discrimination.
The national anthem is a symbol for our country. It is one of the ways that people identify us and we identify ourselves. In its current form, it actively disregards over half of our population. It is a simple change. A change that hardly anyone would notice when singing it. However, it would show the rest of the world that we stand by our status as a forerunner in the fight for universal equality. Although you cannot put a price on equality, the changes Restore Our Anthem is looking for would have a negligible effect on the budget. Their website claims that “any historical copies of O’Canada would remain”. What they are looking for is a change in the lyrics that are displayed on government websites or on versions “displayed digitally on government sources or for broadcast at events”, along with distributing re-prints to schools and organizations in Canada.
The lyrics of a national anthem need to reflect that country’s history. Ours is a history that is not only marked by the sacrifices of brave men, but the sacrifice of women throughout it as well. Our lyrics need to be modified to reflect their sacrifice as well.