Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Mauril Belanger's Brave Fight for a More Inclusive National Anthemrights to the Test

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Mauril Belanger's Brave Fight for a More Inclusive National Anthemrights to the Test

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Mauril Belanger's brave fight for a more inclusive national anthem

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published May 9:

It should be a no-brainer. Yet for the last quarter-century, a growing chorus of critics has failed to convince Parliament to amend a sexist lyric in our national anthem. The latest blow to the movement, struck last week, was the saddest by far.

Liberal MP Mauril Belanger appeared in the House of Commons on Friday for the second reading of his private member's bill to make "O Canada" gender-neutral. The bill would replace "in all thy sons command" with "in all of us command," an overdue change that would finally include all Canadians in the anthem.

Belanger, who suffers from ALS, was greeted with a standing ovation, but a request to extend the debate to allow for an early vote was blocked by Conservative MPs. That means the issue will likely be pushed off to the fall.

It's the debate that never ends. The Star supported the effort of an East York music teacher to update the lyrics in 1993. We supported a 2013 campaign led by former prime minister Kim Campbell and author Margaret Atwood to do the same. We supported Belanger's previous private member's bill, which was defeated last year. And we support his new effort. Our plaint is becoming as familiar as the anthem itself.

So why has the change proved so hard to enact? The bill's Conservative opponents claim the proposed edit represents political correctness run amok, that our anthem is "a legacy passed down from our predecessors." This argument from traditionalism has two fatal shortcomings.

First, it is a towering slippery slope. The notion that we should do something simply because we have always done it that way has been used to justify some of the worst relics of less enlightened times. If the arc of the moral universe truly does bend toward justice, it has bent less radically because of those who automatically oppose change and thus progress. …

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