The Canadian Senate has passed a bill to make the country’s English language version of the national anthem gender neutral.
As a result the second line of “O Canada” will change from “true patriot love, in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command.”
The bill had stalled in the Senate as the opposition Conservatives fought its passage, but it won Senate approval on a voice vote. The unelected senate usually rubber-stamps legislation passed by the country’s House of Commons.
The change was proposed by late Liberal lawmaker Mauril Belanger, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and did not live to see it become law.
It followed a campaign by a group of prominent women, in including author Margaret Atwood and former Prime Minister Kim Campbell who launched a new campaign in 2013 to have the changes implemented.
They said that the time that the revision to the lyrics would “encapsulate the equality of all Canadians”.
After the bill was passed, Atwood tweeted her delight.
— Margaret E. Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) February 1, 2018
A dozen attempts had previously been made to remove the reference to “sons” from the song, which became the country’s official anthem in 1980, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). But none had been successful until now.
The French version does not have a reference to sons.
According to Canadian Heritage, the song was first performed in 1880, with several different versions of the lyrics emerging in the coming years.
Robert Stanley Weir in 1908 wrote the current version of the song, although he later added the line that later sparked so much debate. The poet and judge, changed “thou dost in us command” to “in all thy sons command.”
Independent Ontario Senator Frances Lankin, who sponsored the bill in the upper house, said she “very, very happy” after the bill’s passage.
“There’s been 30 years plus of activity trying to make our national anthem, this important thing about our country, inclusive of all of us,” she told the CBC. “This may be small, it’s about two words, but it’s huge … we can now sing it with pride knowing the law will support us in terms of the language. I’m proud to be part of the group that made this happen.”
However, some Conservative politicians were unhappy about it passing.
Larry Smith, the party’s leader in the Senate, said: “It’s very unfortunate. It just shows you that things aren’t functioning in the way they should.”