News, Politics

“In All Of Us Command”

Canadian Flag. Image: E Pluribus Anthony
Canadian Flag. Image: E Pluribus Anthony


Some of the words to Canada’s national anthem have been changed.

In O Canada, the line, “in all thy sons command” has been changed to “in all of us command.”

Last week, Canada passed Bill C-210. That bill changes “the National Anthem Act to substitute the words “of us” for the words “thy sons” in the English version of the national anthem, thus making it gender neutral.”

Once the bill is approved by the Governor General, it will be come a law. (See UPDATE, below.)

In this case, gender neutral means that the anthem no longer refers to one specific gender (males). The wording now includes “all of us” — which means all genders including male, female, transgender and others.**

Canada’s national anthem is more than just a song–it’s a symbol of Canada. In a statement, Canada’s Ministry of Canadian Heritage said, “…the equality of all genders should be reflected in our national symbols, as we believe that a more inclusive Canada is a stronger Canada.”

They said this change “promotes the equality of sexes and women’s rights.”

There have been 12 other attempts in the past to change this wording since 1980, when O Canada was officially named Canada’s national anthem. None of them was successful until this year. The bill was created by Liberal MP (Member of Parliament for Ottawa-Vanier) Mauril Bélanger in 2015. Bélanger passed away the next year. Although he never got to see his bill passed, “Mauril’s dedication to a gender-neutral National Anthem will serve as a legacy for generations to come,” said the Ministry of Canadian Heritage statement.

UPDATE (Feb. 9, 2018): The change to the Canadian national anthem has received royal assent (in other words, the Queen’s representative–the Governor General of Canada–has given her official approval. Therefore, the Canadian national anthem has officially been changed. The new version was sung by the Canadian Olympic team in Pyeongchang yesterday during a flag-raising ceremony, according to CBC News.)

More information about O Canada:
Natalie Huneault, Spokesperson, Media Relations Service for the Department of Canadian Heritage, gave TKN some additional information about O Canada and the changes it has undergone.

  • The music for “O Canada” was composed in 1880 by Calixa Lavallée – a well-known composer at the time – and the French lyrics to accompany the music were written by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier.  So the “original” lyrics were French.
  • As the song became more and more popular, many English versions were written over the years, including one based on a poem written in 1908 by The Honourable Robert Stanley Weir. Weir revised his poem in 1914 from ““Thou dost in us command” to “In all thy sons command.”  It was these lyrics that became the official English version in the National Anthem Act in 1980: there have been no changes since then. Read more about the history of the anthem.

Related Links:

UPDATE: O Canada receives royal assent–CBC News article:

The history of O Canada:

**Telegraph “glossary of gender identities”:

By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Old habits die hard. How long do you think it will take you to adjust to the new lyrics?

Reading Prompt: Text Features
Today’s article includes an extra section with several interesting facts and useful links. What is the impression you get when you look at a piece of writing that includes bonus material? What message does it send? Might a teacher feel the same way?

Identify a variety of text features and explain how they help readers understand texts
 (OME, Reading: 2.3).

Identify a variety of text features and explain how they help readers understand texts 
(OME, Reading: 2.3).

Identify a variety of text features and explain how they help communicate meaning
(OME, Reading: 2.3).

Language Feature: Verb or Noun
The word, “command” can function as a noun or a verb depending on how it is used in the sentence. When used as a noun, e.g. a captain in command. However, when it used as a verb it acts differently, e.g. The celebrity commands a large fee. How do you think “command” is used in this lyric? Why do you think so?