Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwood has joined the chorus of prominent Canadian women calling for the lyrics of "O Canada" to be more gender-neutral amid the launch of an official campaign to correct the national anthem's century-old sexist wording.
According to the group Restore Our Anthem, Robert Stanley Weir's original 1908 English lyrics for "O Canada" used the phrase “thou dost in us command” and it was changed to "all thy sons command" in 1913, for no documented reason.
They’re now advocating the line be tweaked to a more modern “in all of us command.”
"The words 'all thy sons command' in the English national anthem suggests that only male loyalty is being invoked," said Atwood in a statement on Monday.
"Restoring these lyrics to gender-neutral is not only an easy fix to make our anthem inclusive for all Canadians, but it’s also long overdue.”
Besides Atwood, the campaign has backing from former prime minister Kim Campbell, Senator Nancy Ruth, former senator Vivienne Poy, and Sally Goddard, whose daughter Nichola Goddard was the first female Canadian soldier to be killed in combat, in Afghanistan in 2006.
It sounds like a formidable — and reasonable — campaign, yet similar recent attempts have failed.
Senator Poy in 2002 introduced a bill to try to change the wording, and in 2010, Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean asked Parliament to consider a change, with the support of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Conservatives abandoned the debate a couple days later.
In 1968, a joint federal government committee added the lyrics “from far and wide” and “God keep our land” to the original.