It still comes up from time to time: people want to see changes to the lyrics of O Canada. Typical reasons are that it is too religious or too sexist.
In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that the federal government, in the 2010 throne speech, was looking at making the words gender-neutral. A poll showed massive opposition, however, and the idea was soon shelved.
But there are persistent calls for the exclusion of God in the anthem on the grounds that it excludes non-believers. Those who oppose the change claim to have tradition on their side, and for the most part they are right except for one niggling fact — the phrase “God keep our land” wasn’t inserted into O Canada until 1967 when it replaced the phrase “stand on guard.”
Another “stand on guard” was replaced with “From far and wide.” At the time, the changes were well-received. God and the reduction in repetition were welcomed.
On the other hand, traditionalists can take heart in the fact that O Canada actually has four verses, and the fourth is unabashedly religious:
Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our Dominion in thy loving care;
Help us to find, O God, in thee
A lasting, rich reward,
As waiting for the better Day,
We ever stand on guard.
Also, the French version, which has stayed true to its roots, has always mentioned the cross and faith. Early English translations (O Canada was originally French only) included these religious themes with phrases such as: “Beneath the shade of the Holy Cross” and “Almighty God! On thee we call.”
It could be argued that the offending phrase “God keep our land” has only been around for
46 years, but in the life of a country as young as Canada, that is long enough to form a tradition in many people’s minds. The feeling of many Canadians is that the anthem, the flag and even the Constitution are settled and should be kept as is.
It may be a sign of national maturity or maybe it is a sign of an aging population, but the appetite for change in our institutions is not as great as it used to be.
Still, the widespread acceptance of same-sex marriage and crusades against bullying point to support for at least some social tinkering.
Even so, we predict that the anthem in its current form will stay with us for many years to come.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.