July 13, 2016
Don't Mess With Canadian National Anthem, Please

What interesting times we live in.

Just over two months ago, Canada saw a bill that would change the lyrics of the Canadian national anthem to something more gender neutral. The proposed change is fairly innocuous, but has stirred a great deal of controversy: in the Canadian national anthem, the line, "in all thy sons command" would be changed to "in all of us command."

According to CBC News, the changes to the Canadian national anthem were proposed by Member of Parliament Mauril Belanger, who was recently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. During the second reading of the bill proposing the changes to the Canadian national anthem, Belanger had to use a voice generator, and his doctor was present; Belanger had to show up for the first hour of the debate on the proposed bill.

Several headlines about the change to the Canadian national anthem have been released, all of which stating that the "majority" of Canadians support the line change to something more gender neutral. Yet, in polls on some of these same news sites, including VanCity Buzz and Global News, the majority of those who participated in the site's online poll actually say they prefer their Canadian national anthem the way it's been for over a century.

It seemed the controversy about that piece of the Canadian national anthem died down, at least until last night, when a member of the Canadian Tenors, Remigo Pereira, freestyled a lyric for the Canadian national anthem just before Major League Baseball's All Star Game. Pereira modified the lyric to say, "We're all brothers and sisters, all lives matter to the great," when the line should have been "all thy sons command."

If Canadians hadn't spoken previously about the politician-proposed change to the Canadian national anthem, they definitely got very upset about the same line being changed to express political views by one of Canada's most celebrated music groups.

What is clear from all of this discussion/debate/argument over the Canadian national anthem is that in reality, Canadians do not want their national anthem messed with - not even after a century when it might need an upgrade or two, something that has been done with other national anthems.Not that I support Pereira's using of the Canadian national anthem as a political statement. I think if Pereira wanted to use the stage to express a political view, changing the lyric of the Canadian national anthem during one of the most televised events on the summer schedule was not his best move. He also should not have blindsided his fellow Tenors, and yes, he is paying the price for his gaffe currently, as he is not going to be performing with the Tenors until further notice.

Some have argued that Pereira is not truly Canadian, as he was born in Boston. There are also those who suggest that people -- specifically some Conservative politicos -- are being slow in their support of the proposed change to the Canadian national anthem because Belanger, who is Liberal, is quite ill at this point and may not ultimately see his proposed bill come to fruition.

Setting aside for the moment that #alllivesmatter, the statement that Pereira used in his version of the Canadian national anthem, has been used as a way to argue against the Black Lives Matter movement, there is a time and a place for everything. When you are representing your country at one of the biggest sporting events of the summer is not a great time to change lyrics for a political statement.

There is also the belief that all lives should matter, but that's another statement that could be debated as well by some.

Also, where was the consultation, either from this particular member of the Tenors or from Canadian politicians? The bill proposing the changes to the Canadian national anthem passed second reading and is essentially a stone's throw away from probably becoming reality. Conservative Member of Parliament Peter Van Loan said, according to Mashable, that the proposal to change the Canadian national anthem has effectively excluded the people for whom such a decision should matter most - Canadians.

"We are telling Canadians, 'Guess what, you don't have a say in your national anthem," he said. "It belongs to us as politicians… for us to deliver our world view to you and impose it upon you.'"

Both Pereira and politicians, like it or not, decided that they should speak for Canadians without actually consulting them. Admittedly, Pereira is a musician, but he thrust himself into the political spotlight with his "lone wolf" behavior, according to the statement of apology from the Tenors. Also, while I do appreciate that Belanger is truly fighting the clock in a losing battle against ALS, Canadians should not see their national anthem changed without direct consultation. That takes time.

Do I support a world in which all lives matter and issues like gender and sexuality should not matter? Absolutely. I have also tried to embrace change as much as possible during my four-plus decades on this planet. However, I do also recognize there is a lot of history in the Canadian national anthem, and I question the necessity of changing it, either by a musician wanting to make a political statement or by politicians who want to see that everyone feels accepted right down to the lyrics in the Canadian national anthem.

I know the anthem was changed previously, but we need to invest the time now to ensure that anything involving changes to the Canadian national anthem are discussed with Canadians before the change is actually made. It does not matter if the lyric changes are done by Canadian politicians or by a musician; if you are representing Canadians, changes to the Canadian national anthem need to be discussed prior to performance or prior to making them a reality.

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)