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Canadian national anthem goes gender neutral and that's great news for kids

A bill passed the Senate yesterday to change the wording in the anthem that references sons, to use language that is more gender neutral.

Good news for kids who start their days by singing a lively rendition of O Canada in their classrooms. Looks like Canadians are embracing changes to use more progressive, gender-inclusive language. In a bill that passed the Senate yesterday, the national anthem will no longer reference “in all thy sons command” but instead will be replaced by the gender-neutral lyric, “in all of us command.” Considering that kids are increasingly being taught these days about the importance of gender inclusivity, this small but significant step can help create unity around the overall messages they are receiving.

The bill to make this change was first proposed in 2016 by Liberal MP Mauril Bérlanger, and now that it’s passed the Senate, it has just one more hurdle: to receive the royal assent by the Governor General. (Actually, since the song became the official national anthem in 1980 there have been 12 bills (!) that made it to the house, all attempting to remove the word “sons,” which some argue is discriminatory. None succeeded.)

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This wouldn’t be the first lyric change to the song. Written by Robert Stanley Weir in 1908, O Canada has been updated before—including one change that dates back to before the First World War, when the author added the line that later sparked so much debate. Weir, a poet and judge, changed “thou dost in us command” to “in all thy sons command.”

Independent Ontario Sen. Frances Lankin, the sponsor of Bélanger’s bill in the upper house, said she was elated after the bill’s passage. “I’m very, very happy. There’s been 30 years plus of activity trying to make our national anthem, this important thing about our country, inclusive of all of us,” she said. “This may be small, it’s about two words, but it’s huge … we can now sing it with pride knowing the law will support us in terms of the language. I’m proud to be part of the group that made this happen.”

As for the reference to God (“God keep our land, glorious and free”), which some groups have demanded be removed in the past, there’s no word on whether that’s up for tweaking, too. The American national anthem actually skirts this issue, by not referring to men or women at all, although currency in the U.S. does claim, “In God We Trust,” which doesn’t appear on Canadian money.

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