An Act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender)

Sponsor

Mauril Bélanger  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Third reading (Senate), as of Dec. 12, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-210.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the National Anthem Act to substitute the words “of us” for the words “thy sons” in the English version of the national anthem, thus making it gender neutral.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 15, 2016 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
June 1, 2016 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

October 3rd, 2016 / 2:45 p.m.
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Ahuntsic-Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Mélanie Joly LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-210 is an act to render the English version of O Canada gender neutral. It aligns with the Government of Canada's commitment to promote gender equality and the advancement of women's rights.

Bill C-210 was presented by the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier, whose dedication to the principles of justice in general, and gender parity in particular, was an inspiration and an example for all of us.

National Anthem ActPrivate Members’ Business

June 15th, 2016 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-210 under private members' business.

Call in the members.

The House resumed from June 10 consideration of the motion that Bill C-210, An Act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender), be read the third time and passed.

National Anthem ActPrivate Members' Business

June 10th, 2016 / 1:55 p.m.
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Edmonton Centre Alberta

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, as a Canadian and as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-210, an act to amend the National Anthem Act.

I listened to the debate and I am very pleased to add my thoughts to those of my honourable colleagues.

However, before I do that, I want to thank and honour the work of the member of Parliament for Ottawa—Vanier for his 20-plus years in the chamber, for his work on behalf of Franco-Canadians, and for his work on behalf of Parliament and all Canadians. I know that he can hear us, and I know that he knows we are with him, and so are Canadians. He is the best combination of a brother and an uncle I have ever met in my life for someone who is not a family member.

I know that this debate has raged, and I know that it is an important debate, but I want to get to the substantive issues. We are talking about making our national anthem gender neutral. The issue is whether the English lyrics “in all thy sons command” should be amended to “in all of us command” to reflect the original gender neutral 1908 version.

I, and many others in the House and across the country, believe that this change is fundamental. We reject the assertion that changing this is simple pandering to a political base. This is in fact taking it to its original base and making it appropriate for all Canadians. How else am I going to explain to my 12-year-old niece, Skylar, that we in the House on Wednesdays, and Canadians from coast to coast to coast, continue to sing a version of the Canadian anthem that is discriminatory to her gender and to 51% of Canadians?

The debate is about bringing our national anthem into the 21st century. It is 2016. This is about gender neutrality. This is about the future. What else could be more Canadian?

National Anthem ActPrivate Members' Business

June 10th, 2016 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Mr. Speaker, let me first say how much I respect my hon. colleague who has moved the bill. I have been here for a very long time, and he has been here longer than I. Throughout the whole tenure of my term here in Parliament, which is over 10 years now, we have always had respectful dialogue, and I will do my best to keep my dialogue in regard to his bill, which seeks to change the national anthem, as respectful as I can.

I am speaking on behalf of a massive amount of constituents that I have heard from in my constituency who are finally becoming aware that this change would even happen.

I became aware of this as the member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin back in a Speech from the Throne, which my colleague had mentioned earlier. Ironically, at a time when the economy and keeping our streets and communities safe are important ever-pressing issues, the proposed change that was highlighted in the Speech from the Throne elicited such a response from my constituents that it let me know overwhelmingly that this is not a change that the people that I represent welcome.

That is our role as parliamentarians. Our role is not to take some other personal considerations into effect. Our role as representatives is to represent the will of the people that we were elected to represent. We should always be considerate of that first and foremost.

I have looked at a number of articles about this particular issue that have been printed in regional or national media. It always refers to, usually, colleagues from my side of the House speaking to this particular issue as they are reflecting the will of their constituents, yet when we hear from members of Parliament from other particular points of view, they are talking about how we need to pass the bill from a perspective of a personal attachment to a situation that a member of the House is going through. However grave that actually might be, it should never be a rationale for how we make decisions or determinations in the House.

We should always seek to do what is best and in the best interests of all Canadians and what the will of the people who sent us here to do our job actually is. I have not heard a lot of that debate on what the representatives who are voting in favour of the legislation are actually hearing from their constituents. I hear emotional arguments, but I never hear what the constituents of the folks who are voting in favour of this legislative change actually have to say.

I have been here a long time. As a matter of fact, my private member's bill in the last Parliament sought to make a change that would have affected a few hundred thousand, maybe one million workers, Bill C-525, and I was accused voraciously of doing this through the back door, taking a back-door sneaky approach to change some legislation when my bill went through the entire process. The process took over a year for it to happen. The committees at both the Senate and the House of Commons heard from dozens of witnesses and interested parties. It went through the private member's process.

I am not questioning the member's ability to bring forward a legislative change. I respect member's rights and privileges in the House. He has every right to move a legislative change as he sees fit. I do not dispute the fact that he has the right to do this. However, the process has been gerrymandered from the outset.

The bill was passed in the chamber on, I believe, June 1. It went to the committee on June 2. One witness was heard from for 45 minutes. The chair of the committee made an appeal to the members of the committee based on the medical health condition of the sponsor of the bill, and the bill was subsequently sent back to the House the very next day.

I have never seen a private member's bill move so quickly through the House without regard for due process, which is very concerning to me. If that is the process of how legislation is going to be adopted and changed, I can hardly wait to see what the Liberals are going to do with the changes they are going to be proposing when it comes to democratic reform, because if that is the MO, then we have a lot to be worried about.

Before I finish, I just want to read what one person, who was not able to get her particular point of view, either in a written submission or directly to the committee, taken into consideration. I will read this letter into the record.

It says, “To Whom it May Concern, I am writing you as a young concerned Canadian. I just finished reading a news article about [a Liberal MP's] Bill C-210, which calls for the lyrics of our national anthem changed to be 'gender neutral'. I am absolutely appalled that this is even being given thought, let alone consideration. I would first off like to state very clearly that I am not writing to you...out of any closed-mindedness [or malicious intent]. I am a full supporter of equality and inclusiveness 100% but I draw the line at the proposed lyric change in O Canada, and here is why:

“'True patriot love in all thy sons command. True North strong and free! O Canada, we stand on guard for thee'

“That block of lyrics is in reference to our sons at the front during the world wars. Yes, I am well aware that there were many nursing sisters at the front as well, but the reality is that our sons by far outnumbered our daughters at the front.

“Let's not forget the 1917 MSA conscription during the First World War after we lost the entire Newfoundland Regiment on the first day of the battle of the Somme. We lost our SONS in less than an hour, the regiment was all but wiped out. To change those lyrics is not only a slap in the face to all who serve now, but to our grandfathers and great grandfathers who so bravely marched on into battle for the freedom we enjoy today. It's a direct spit at the memories, stories and legacies those men left behind.”

The author of this letter is clearly indicating what we all know and feel in our hearts, that the national anthem, as it was changed, was done so to respect a time in history. It is not meant to be gender biased in any way, shape, or form. It is a historical anthem. It was our nation's founding moment. Many historians would argue that when our sons, mostly sons, who were fighting in the wars at that particular time made an assault on Vimy Ridge, they earned our right to participate internationally. Some would say it was the birth of our nation.

She goes on to say in this letter, “The final line in the block of lyrics actually renders the statement gender neutral”, and she says “I say this because we as a nation do stand on guard for “thee”. “We” is the part that means “all of us”.

She argues that the previous line that talks about “in all thy sons command” refers to a part of our history. The part that “we stand on guard for thee” is the gender neutral language, which encompasses all of us and charges all of us with the diligence to look after, protect, and preserve our nation.

This is a good enough reason for me, based on the fact that many of my constituents have already told me how they feel about this and the fact that the bill, regrettably, and I do understand the circumstances, does not seem to have been given due process in this place at all. I am going to have to vote against the legislation.

National Anthem ActPrivate Members' Business

June 10th, 2016 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

moved that Bill C-210, an act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender), be concurred in.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-210, an act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Canadian National AnthemStatements By Members

June 10th, 2016 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, later this afternoon, the House is going to have the opportunity to debate Bill C-210.

This is a bill dealing with Canada's national anthem. We are hopeful that all members will recognize the importance of this, specifically in regard to the member for Ottawa—Vanier, who has put in a yeoman's effort to raise what is a very important issue for the House of Commons. We are hopeful that we will be able to see the bill come to a vote today.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

June 9th, 2016 / 3 p.m.
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Liberal

Andrew Leslie Liberal Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, should you seek it, I hope you will find unanimous consent for the motion that notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, when the order is for consideration of report stage or at third reading stage of Bill C-210, An Act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender), if the member for Ottawa—Vanier is not present to move the concurrence of report stage or the third reading motions, they may be moved by the member for Orléans.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 3rd, 2016 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in relation to Bill C-210, an act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender).

The committee has studied the bill and decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

June 2nd, 2016 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

A recorded vote, please.

(Bill C-210 agreed to: yeas 6; nays 3)

June 2nd, 2016 / 8:45 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

We will call the meeting to order as it is now 8:45 a.m.

Pursuant to the order of order of reference of Wednesday, June 1, 2016, Bill C-210, an act to amend the National Anthem Act will now be dealt with by this committee. The summary of the bill is that this enactment amends the national anthem to substitute the words “of us” for the words “thy sons” in the English version of the national anthem. This, therefore, makes the national anthem gender neutral.

Between 8:45 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., we have one witness to speak to this bill. We will deal with the witness, Mr. Champion, of The Dorchester Review.

Welcome.

National Anthem ActPrivate Members' Business

June 1st, 2016 / 5:55 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-210, an act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender) under private members' business.

Since this is the first recorded division on private members' business in this Parliament, I wish to remind all hon. members that the division will be taken row by row, starting with the sponsor, if he or she is present, and then proceeding with those in favour of the motion, beginning with the back row on the side of the House on which the sponsor sits. After proceeding through the rows on that first side, the members sitting on the other side of the House will vote, again beginning with the back row. Those opposed to the motion will be called in the same order.

The House resumed from May 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-210, An Act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

National Anthem ActPrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2016 / 6:45 p.m.
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Hull—Aylmer Québec

Liberal

Greg Fergus LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-210, an act to amend the National Anthem Act, which proposes changing the English version of the national anthem to make it gender neutral.

The bill proposes replacing the words “thy sons” with “of us”. The third line, which now reads “true patriot love in all thy sons command” would be replaced by “true patriot love in all of us command”.

First, I would like to thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier for introducing this important bill. His dedication to the principle of justice in general and gender equality in particular and his extraordinary courage are a source of inspiration and an example to us all.

The theme of this bill should be of interest to all Canadians, men and women, and I am very proud to talk about it. The hon. member noticed that the national anthem did not correspond to our society and values. His bill seeks to correct that contradiction and change the anthem so that it better reflects Canada's reality. What is more, and I am sure that everyone in the House will agree with me, we want a Canada that gives men and women an equal opportunity to participate in society.

I want to point out that the French and English versions of O Canada are quite different. The verses in the English version are not a literal translation of the French version. That is why Bill C-210 is focused on the English version. The French version is already gender neutral.

The French version of O Canada was written in 1880. The music was composed by Calixa Lavallée, and the words were written by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. The words of the French version have not changed in all this time.

The English version of O Canada was written later. The music is the same as the French version, but the words were written by Justice Robert Stanley Weir, in 1908. Many changes have been made to Mr. Weir's words since 1908.

The first change dates back to 1913, and I would like to make a slight correction to what my hon. colleague from Abitibi said. When Mr. Weir changed the neutral words “true patriot love thou dost in us command”, he replaced them with “true patriot love in all thy sons command”. It is widely acknowledged that this change was made to honour the men who served in the armed forces on the eve of the First World War.

The 1913 version became the official English version of O Canada when the National Anthem Act was adopted in 1980. The words “in all thy sons command” may have reflected the Canada of 1913, but our country has changed considerably over the centuries. Nowadays, women participate in all facets of Canadian life, including our armed forces.

On June 27, 1980, the National Anthem Act was adopted unanimously by the House of Commons and the Senate, and it received royal assent that same day. It is important to note that the parties agreed to limit debate on the National Anthem Act to one representative each because other changes to the lyrics of O Canada would be made through private members' bills.

Prior to that arrangement, the House had considered a number of bills to adopt a national anthem, but all died on the Order Paper. Since 1980, 12 bills have been introduced in Parliament to make the English version of the national anthem gender neutral. All of them sought to change the words “thy sons”.

Despite the fact that all of the bills were rejected or died on the Order Paper, support for the change grew. Last year, a bill identical to Bill C-210 was rejected at second reading by a vote of 144 to 127.

Public support for making the national anthem gender neutral has also increased. A 2015 poll commissioned by the member for Ottawa—Vanier and conducted by Mainstreet Technologies revealed that 58% of Canadians supported the amended wording proposed in Bill C-210. After 34 years and 12 bills, the time has come to return to the neutral meaning of the original 1908 version of the national anthem.

This change to our national anthem is long overdue. In fact, it is 36 years overdue. Its lyrics should have been changed when O Canada became our national anthem in 1980. I think it is appropriate to make this change now, and I hope all members of the House will agree.

The idea of changing a national symbol can spark debate. People are reluctant to give up traditions. However, as I just said, O Canada has only been our official national anthem since 1980.

This year, 2016, marks the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote. Next year we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. It would be nice if we stopped excluding women from their national anthem.

Today I call on all members of the House to make up for lost time and support the changes proposed in Bill C-210.

Last November, our government received a lot of attention and support throughout the world when it appointed an equal number of men and women to cabinet. At that time, our Prime Minister expressed his pride in appointing a cabinet that reflects Canada.

The hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier asked the following question: should a national symbol not be reflective of the people it is supposed to represent? I sincerely believe that our 42nd Parliament will answer him with a resounding yes.