On Wednesday, legislators in Ottawa passed a new bill that would change the country's national anthem to make it gender neutral.
At issue is the third line of "O Canada," which reads: "True patriot’s love in all thy sons command." The Canadian House of Commons voted 225 to 74 to change that line to the more inclusive "in all of us command." The bill will now head to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.
The bill, C-210, was drafted by Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger. This past winter, Bélanger was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or "Lou Gehrig's Disease," but he was on hand for Wednesday's vote. According to The Atlantic, he received a standing ovation from his legislative peers.
The latest possible changes are just the latest in a long line of alterations to the anthem, originally written in French, stretching back to its origins as a commissioned piece performed in honor of the Congrès national des Canadiens-Français (National Congress of French Canadian) in 1880. It wasn't until 1980 that a version with lyrics written by Robert Stanley Weir was officially proclaimed Canada's national anthem.
What's more, this latest pivot toward gender neutrality is actually bringing the anthem full circle. A turn of the 20th century version of "O Canada" is said to have featured the lyrics: "True patriot love thou dost in us command." The Globe and Mail reported the words were changed to "sons" during World War One, presumably in honor of the Canadian military.
Regardless of its amorphous history, and despite the overwhelming support these latest lyrics may have received, not everyone was thrilled with the change. During debate on the proposal, Conservative MP Blaine Calkins pushed back, claiming support for the measure wasn't reflective of constituent concerns, but rather was the result of "personal attachment to a situation that a member of the House is going through."
Earlier this year, Larry Maguire, another Conservative MP, wondered whether passage of the the bill could have dangerous implications down the road. "I worry, as do many Canadians," he said, "that if the words of our national anthem could be changed through a private member's bill, what sort of precedent would we be setting for future changes on other issues of Canadian identity?"
Working toward gender parity has been a feature of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's term in office so far. After he was sworn in as PM in November of last year, Trudeau was asked by reported why it was important that 15 of his 31 cabinet ministers were women. He answered simply: "Because it's 2015."