“We offered to hear from Canadians on this issue and they have already spoken loud and clear. They overwhelmingly do not want to open the issue. The Government will not proceed any further to change our national anthem.”
“Nous avons consulté les Canadiens et Canadiennes sur cette question, et ceux-ci se sont exprimés haut et fort : par une immense majorité, ils ne veulent pas ouvrir ce dossier. Le gouvernement n’ira pas plus loin en vue de modifier l’hymne national.”
Dimitri Soudas, official spokesman for the Prime Minister
Yesterday, when tweeting the throne speech, I was puzzled to find the line “Our Government will also ask Parliament to examine the original gender-neutral wording of the national anthem”. I almost glibly tagged the tweet #wtf but this one seemed like something I’d have to look into further before chirping on it.
Post throne-speech, folks will — as they always have — gather for some drinks and conversation and last night was no exeption. Conservatives were generally perplexed by the line in the speech looking to gender-neutralize our country’s anthem. “I’ll hear about this when I get home [back to the riding]”, admitted one MP. A Conservative staffer thought the whole idea was upsetting while one conservative joked that we’ll change the offending “in all thy sons command” to “in all thy peoples command” or “in all thy womyn command”.
Looking into the history of anthem “correcting”, I found that such an idea had always been dismissed as political correctness run amok. In the past, members from other parties had brought up changing the anthem to a more gender sensitive version, but this time around, I’ve learned that the originator of this change may have been a Conservative Senator. Nancy Ruth is rumoured to have been granted her wish in bringing up her issue for debate, and for some reason, the Prime Minister’s office seems to be intrigued by the idea.
Let’s look at the proposal politically and then deduct what is really going on here.
Do the Conservatives gain by bringing this issue up for debate with those that would seem to care the most about such a change? No. Ardent gender-sensitivity careerists aren’t likely to fall into the “base” category of Conservative voter. I know it’s hard to believe, but believe me, I’ve seen the data.
Does bringing up the issue help Conservatives with accessible (swing) voters? The undecideds usually make up their minds during the last few days of a campaign and last time I checked, we’re not exactly five minutes to midnight on going to the polls.
Does bringing up the issue serve as a diversionary tactic? Perhaps, but such a non-substantive issue doesn’t last too long in the meat grinder of the bigger issues such as taxes, the deficit and spending.
So what’s going on here? At first, I thought it was an attempt to put another Conservative stamp on Canadian patriotism. The Liberals remade the flag, can the Conservatives remake the anthem?
But no, I think that the anthem suggestion serves two other purposes. First and foremost, MPs will receive letters and calls about this. I just spoke to a constituency office manager that says he’s already received a number of calls about it. Staff will diligently be ID’ing these callers as “traditionalist” voters in the Conservative base. But do the Conservatives risk losing these voters by meddling with the anthem? No, because the proposal is framed to allow the opposition to play the meddling role.
Imagine that there is perhaps nothing more horrifying than creating a work of art by committee.
When a parliamentary committee of all parties starts work on O Canada, Conservatives should sit back and let the social engineers in the opposition get to work. Here’s how it will play out:
The line “in all thy sons command” will be changed to “thou dost in us command” to reflect gender neutrality in the anthem.
Oh and while we’re at it, we opposition types also recognize Canada as a secular nation and this whole “God” business in the anthem angers our humanist friends. The line “God keep our land” should be changed to “We keep our land” or maybe to satisfy our green party coalition partners the whole line should be “Gaia keep our Earth, glorious and green”
“Our home and native land” should be changed to “Our home on native land” to recognize the claims of our first nations people. Unsettled land claims are always more “hot” than “not” so we should just recognize this reality, the social justice advocates will argue.
“We stand on guard for thee” sounds too militaristic! Canada is a nation of peacekeepers afterall. We must change this to something more welcoming to others such as “we open our hearts to thee”, they’ll say.
Oh and the Bloc seems to have a problem with the words “O Canada” — too “Canadian” they complain. The Bloc wants to change those words, but the precise wording they never seem to be able to sort out. Somebody is calling for clarity on the issue.
Meanwhile, the Conservative position will be to support the status quo. We like the anthem as it is. We’ve received so many letters on the issue, you see. We are upset by the Frankenstein created by the opposition members who obviously don’t appreciate what real Canadians love about our country.
The opposition will then write a Private Members Bill called “an Act to rewrite O Canada” which will never see any real debate or even make it to any committee to be discussed in legislative form.
In an election, the Prime Minister will campaign against the botched anthem titled “O Land of Post-Patriarchal Peaceful Green Nations”
Wayne Gretzky will stump for the PM.
Michael Bublé will open.
Punch will be served.