Tory MP Peter Van Loan To Trudeau: Listen To Canadians 'As Much As' Harper Did On Anthem

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A Conservative MP sparked laughter in question period Monday by urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to listen to Canadians "as much as" his predecessor did on the matter of changing Canada's national anthem.

Former House leader Peter Van Loan said Canadians "overwhelmingly" disapprove of changing the English version of the anthem.

peter van loan
Peter Van Loan speaks during question period on May 1, 2015. (Photo: Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

In June, a private member's bill from late Liberal MP Mauril Belanger — which seeks to change the verse "all thy sons command" to "all of us command" — easily passed the House of Commons.

But a story in The Toronto Star on Saturday revealed many Canadians wrote to Trudeau last spring to speak out against changing the lyrics.

"Our symbols, like the national anthem, belong to Canadians," Van Loan said. "They do not belong to us as politicians."

He charged that Liberals "broke the rules" by quickly jamming through changes without public input.

No consultations

"Will the prime minister listen to these Canadians who he refused to consult in the first place?" asked Van Loan.

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly said Belanger's bill reflected the government's commitment to advancing women's rights and promoting equality. She also lauded her colleague's dedication to "gender parity" as an inspiration.

Van Loan noted the previous Tory government also floated the idea of making the anthem gender-neutral in a 2010 throne speech. Canadians told the Tories to keep their hands off the anthem, he said.

"Stephen Harper listened to Canadians and the proposal was dropped," said Van Loan, spurring some chuckles. "Canadians have now told the prime minister they don't want anthem changes the Liberals are sneaking through.

"Will he show that he can listen to Canadians as much as Stephen Harper did?"

"Will he show that he can listen to Canadians as much as Stephen Harper did?"

New Democrats seated near Van Loan, such as Niki Ashton, had a good laugh.

Joly suggested Tories really abandoned the plan back then because there was division in caucus.

"We can (all) be proud that we've made this important decision that will change the history of Canada," she said.

Though suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, Belanger was in the House last June to see his bill pass the third and final reading. The bill still requires the approval of the Senate.

Belanger died in August at the age of 61.

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