Neutrality a necessity

Canada’s current national anthem doesn’t accurately represent the standards of equity we should strive towards.

The debate around using gender-neutral language in the national anthem will return to the House of Commons, via a private member’s bill that seeks to change “all thy sons command” to “all of us command”.

Gender-neutral language is something Canadians have been striving towards for decades. From policemen who are now police officers to stewardesses who are now flight attendants, there’s an increasing recognition that language reflects society, and that alterations are necessary if we want our society’s ideals of equity to be mirrored by our words.

A national anthem is something to take pride in, and the current version of “O Canada” is inherently exclusionary.

Voices against the change say it’s pointless, since no one legitimately feels oppressed by the anthem. If you have the opportunity to include everyone, though, why wouldn’t you?

The issue at hand isn’t simply one of gender-inclusivity. The national identity that the anthem presents is inaccurate on several fronts. The image of Canada that’s painted is male-centric — “all thy sons command” — militaristic — “we stand on guard” — and Christian — “God keep our land”. These characteristics might’ve represented Canada’s ideals in years past, but this is no longer the case.

There are far more severe issues of gender, race and oppression within Canada than the status of neutrality of our anthem.

But an anthem isn’t just a symbol — it’s a meaningful symbol. At citizenship ceremonies, new citizens are expected to sing “O Canada”. It’s meant to represent their pride in officially becoming Canadian.

We need an anthem that reflects our ideals and what we hope this nation will strive for — even just as a gesture that shows our country and government care enough about inclusion that we’ll deal with something that is, to many, seemingly benign.

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