Whoever thought that words don’t matter much, and that it is the intent that is more important, is in for a surprise. They do matter a great deal, impacting our personal and civic lives. The importance of choosing the correct words has been brought into sharp focus when a law was effected recently. The lyrics to our national anthem, ‘O Canada’ were changed slightly. But the small change throws a big shadow.
Earlier, we sang the second line of the anthem as, “In all thy sons command”. Due to the tireless efforts of some Senators, this line has now been changed into, “In all of us command”. The fight lasted long. As you can imagine, changing even one word of the national anthem provoked all manner of disturbances. This was not the first change to the anthem however. Robert Stanley Weir, the composer of the lyric had originally intended the line to be: “Thou dost in us command”. In 1914, with the advent of the First World War, it was changed.
The current gender-neutral version of the anthem officially became law in February. A welcome change, and one which is more in keeping with the dynamic nature of citizenship, recognition for women, and what it means to be a patriotic Canadian. Senator Frances Lankin who sponsored Bill C-210 deserves to be lauded for her role in shaping a fairer version of the national anthem.