Thursday, March 04, 2010

O Canada, our home and home-like land

Among the many promises to balance the books and deal with the deficit in yesterday's throne speech by Governor General Michaelle Jean, one thing that raised eyebrows was the Conservatives' plan to ask Parliament "to examine the original gender-neutral English wording of the national anthem."

Let's see how that might be accomplished. Imagine, if you will, a grey committee room somewhere in a grey government office building where a couple of low-level functionaries are drafting a briefing note for Parliament.

"OK, let's get this done. Which line are we changing?"

"True patriot love in all thy sons command." It's sexist. No mention of women."

"Well, what are we changing it to? How about 'In all our kids command?' 'In all our people command'?"

"Apparently the original line from 1908 is 'True patriot love thou dost in us command'."

"Dost?? WTF is 'dost'?

"Ummm" [tapping furiously on laptop] "It's the archaic singular form of the present tense (indicative mood) of the the verb 'do'."

"Yeah, that's gonna fly. NOT."

[Sighs] "I know. But that's what they want. I guess we're done here."

"Heeeey, you know, if we make this change to make it more gender-neutral, you just know we're going to have to go back in later and make it more PC for other groups. Why don't we just be proactive, and..."

"I hate when you say 'proactive.' You're gonna start saying 'stakeholder' next, aren't you?"

"Shut up. Why don't we look at the rest of the lyrics and see if we can see any other trouble spots now? We can save time and put them all in this briefing note."


[Singing to himself] "'O Canada, our home and native land'...RED FLAG."

"Yeah, 'native'. Hmmmm. 'Our home and indigenous land'?"

"'Our home and aboriginal land'?"

"Or should we use 'First Nations'?"

"I don't think it's being used like that. I think it's 'native' like belonging to the land, you know, like native plants. People whose home Canada is."

"OK, how's this, 'O Canada, our home and home-like land'?"

"Now you're talking."

"K, next line's taken care of."

"I still think 'dost' sucks."

"Get over it. 'With glowing hearts, we see thee rise'. What do they mean by 'glowing hearts'?"

"I dunno, healthy hearts?"

"Is that going to be a problem? There are a lot of seniors with heart problems - number one killer of Canadians, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. Do we want to alienate the seniors? They vote. A lot."

"I see your point. We don't want to give the impression that only people with good undamaged hearts are patriotic. Even someone with a myocardial infarc can be a loyal Canadian."

"Yeah, and why single out the heart? I think other organs can be patriotic. God knows we need a strong Canadian liver to deal with all the beer we drink."

"Good, good....I've got it: 'With competent organs, we see thee rise'."

"Bazinga! That's genius! They don't have to have healthy organs, just competent ones, and if the organs aren't even competent, well, they're not around to be or not to be patriotic, and ergo, can't complain about the lyrics. You're good.....Wait, something's still off. 'We see thee rise'? That totally excludes the visually impaired."

"Damn, you're right. 'With competent organs, we perceive thee rise'? That takes in all the senses, right?

"Yep. Good work. Next: 'The true north strong and free.' Not all Canada is north. Windsor, Ontario is actually south of Detroit. I'm thinking we lose the southwestern Ontario vote if we leave 'north' in. They're the geographically-challenged Canadians.

"How do we get around that one?"

"'The true north (and areas to the south of north) strong and free.'?

"It's not going to fit in with the music."

"They'll have to sing faster."

"OK. Moving on: 'From far and wide, O Canada' 'wide' a problem? We're not being weightist are we?"

"Nope, it's the country that's wide.'

"That's a relief."

"'We stand on guard for thee'. Can you believe it? The Paralympics are about to start, and everyone will be singing the anthem that excludes people with physical disabilities. Not everyone can stand, you know."

"I know. I can't believe that one got past people for this long."

"Let's make this positive: 'We accomplish being on guard for thee'. It side-steps the whole 'standing' issue and stresses accomplishment. "

"I like it."

"What's next?"

"'God keep our land, glorious and free.' Hello? Separation of church and state, anyone?"

"Yeah, maybe we should take 'God' outta there. But what do we put in instead?"

"'Something keep our land, glorious and free,' it's PERFECT. That way, the atheists can argue that 'Something' is ourselves and our secular moral values, while religious Canadians can see that 'Something' represents their deity of choice. It's the perfect word. It has diversity and can mean something different to each singer. We've added diversity. It's a good thing."

"OK, Martha, let's bring this baby home. We reprise with 'O Canada we accomplish being on guard for thee'."

"Love. It. So, from the top:

'O Canada, our home and home-like land,
True patriot love, thou dost in us command.
With competent organs, we perceive thee rise,
The true north (and areas to the south of north) strong and free.
From far and wide, O Canada,
We accomplish being on guard for thee.
Something keep our land, glorious and free,
O Canada, we accomplish being on guard for thee.
O Canada, we accomplish being on guard for thee.'"


"What's next?"

"The Lord's Prayer"


(Disclaimer (because, you know, I'm Canadian [and a low-level government functionary to boot]): This is just my tongue-in-cheek way of saying, "Please don't mess with the lyrics, they are fine the way they are now. People searching for evidence to judge how women are treated in Canadian society should look at Canadian society, at the Governor General and women in every walk of life, and in every conceivable job in the workplace, and in the provincial and federal legislatures, and not at one small word, 'sons', in the national anthem. Seriously. Get a grip, people.)


  1. We here in my house love your national anthem and we sang along as best we could during the Olympics.

  2. Your anthem is pretty kick-ass too. I have to say that the reason I know all the words is because of watching so many NHL games on tv and in person. The time I best remember singing it was on Sept 14, 2001 when a memorial service was held on the grounds of Parliament Hill for those killed in the World Trade Centre terrorist attacks. Sixty thousand Ottawans filled the lawn to capacity and we all sang 'O Canada' and then "The Star Spangled Banner'. Remembering still makes me tear up. Anthems are such touchstones and incorporate so much pride, that no one should mess with them.
    Political correctness has totally gone too far in this case. Unfortunately, being overly PC is also a Canadian trait. I don't think it'll come to anything other than a lot of hot air. And blog posts. :-)

  3. Great. Now I'm going to have to overcome the urge to SNORT with laughter every time the National Anthem comes on. I remember when my church (back when I was less heretical) tried changing all the He and His pronouns because God wasn't supposed to be a He anymore -- they sounded like a buncha weenies.

  4. I'll never hear the anthem in the same way ever again...

  5. can't stop humming it.
    my competent organs swelled with pride.

  6. "You're going to use the word stakeholder aren't you..." made me snort out my coffee.

    I think I've been at that meeting.

  7. Allison - What did they use instead of He? He/She? It? 'It' sounds kind of disrespectful.

    Jazz -- Sorry. It's kinda catchy, isn't it? :-)

    Clippy - I'm so glad you're proud. I will refrain from commenting on your swelling organs though.

    Nat - We've ALL been at that meeting, lol. Now we just need to leverage the existing knowledge base and think outside the box so we can drill down to the core competencies... OK, I'll stop now.

  8. Anonymous10:54 AM

    This is priceless. I would suggest leaving the word "Canada" out though because not everyone living in this country is Canadian. We need to be more inclusive of our immigrants.

  9. This weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday!

  10. The whole idea of our national anthem being a song is racist against those who can't sing. And also racist against those who are standing near a person who can't sing well. What about those poor people who have robot-voicebox-implants? They can't sing, but they're just as Canadian as the rest of us. Maybe we should be rethinking the entire medium through which our national pride is conveyed. Maybe we should recite/sign/morse code poetry instead. But then that's racist against people who can't read. Ugh. Nevermind.

  11. I got all weepy when the Canadians sang O Canada all together after men's hockey. They weird part is that I got all weepy and I wasn't even watching it on TV. I was hearing the story from my mom, who was kinda verklempt herself.

  12. XUP - Good point. I'll take that under advisement. Canadian national anthem is problematically too Canadian.

    Schmutzie - THANKS! I'm honoured. With a U. And thanks to the person who suggested this post!

    JenO - Exactly. Thankfully they've come to their senses and are backing away.

    SueBob - I got all weepy too, standing (because who could sit down during the overtime of the gold medal game) around the TV with my friend and my daughter. We sang so loud, you probably heard us in California. :-)

  13. what happened to the other line suggested: "in all of us command"? would have been so much better. methinks the gov't suggested the "thou dost" line knowing full well people would strongly oppose it, which we did.

  14. ummm, far and wide? i'm a little insulted and offended as my ass has been widening exponentially over the years. can you fix that?

  15. Those politicians obviously had nothing else to deal with at the time. I couldn't believe it when that was brought up. Sort of like when people were talking about renaming "manholes", etc.