If you’re looking for a cause to stand behind you don’t have to go very far. A cursory glance at yesterday’s headlines will yield at least a dozen. They can be found around every corner. And then there’s the unusual case of Canadian Councillor Ceta Ramkhalawansingh who has proposed that the government change the Canadian national anthem to be more gender neutral.
The lyric in question is “all thy sons” which she wants changed to “all of us.” Admittedly it sounds a bit cosmetic – maybe even frivolous – especially when considering all the cards in play. Mayor Rob Ford was against it as were many of his compatriots who felt that there were larger more pertinent issues at hand. They dismissed her almost like it were a joke. After all it’s just a silly little lyric, right?
O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command
Very wrong. Turns out Ramkhalawansingh isn’t just some old bag complaining about the weather. She’s an accomplished academic, a civil servant and a politician with over 30 years experience at Toronto City Hall. All that and a stare that could make Ice Cube bust a leak. She’s a badass, and a thorn in a lot of people’s side. A person who doesn’t take no for an answer, and for the right reasons too. She’s even spearheaded a slick website to mobilize, Restoreouranthem.ca.
What she’s asking for is not a change per se but rather a return to what was. The original English version written in 1908 used “us” instead of “sons.” It wasn’t until 1913 that it was inexplicably changed with no real explanation as to why.
The punchline potential is ripe, dripping with juices asking to be bitten into. But the truth is Ramkhalawansingh is doing what any lover of the written word would do. We’re in a generation where our constitution has more white out marks than ink, so to not be on her side would be a bit shortsighted, no doubt.
Anthems by and large are a bit of a joke, formalities at best for sporting events and things of the like. But, they are a symbol of what a country stands for and a reminder of tradition. What Ramkhalawansingh’s fight will bring, at the absolute least, is a reason to say ‘yes, lyrics do matter’. And that’s worth fighting for. At least here it is.