O Canada “In all thy sons command”

August 31, 2013

Changing our national anthem to render the line “in all thy sons command” seemingly more gender neutral is grammatically unnecessary. “O Canada” is already gender neutral. We can check the dictionary or recall our historical precedents to see there is no need to make changes out of some sense of political correctness.

The word “son” has more than one definition; it does not necessarily refer to a male offspring. This is particularly true when referencing nationhood.

Take Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, tenth edition. A son is defined as: “a person closely associated with or deriving from a formative agent (as a nation, school, or race).” Or the Concise Oxford, ninth edition, which includes in its definition: “a person regarded as inheriting an occupation, quality etc. or associated with a particular attribute (sons of freedom, sons of the soil).” Hence, sons in this context can be seen as persons.

The 1929 “Person’s Case” contested and won by the “Famous Five,” which included well-known Albertan Emily Murphy, concluded that women are indeed persons.

Therefore, if sons are persons in the national context, then the word “sons” in our national anthem “O Canada” is gender neutral and indeed means both male and female persons.

The version of “O Canada” on which the official English lyrics are based was written in 1908 by Justice Robert Stanley Weir.  Today’s English version includes changes recommended in 1968 by a Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons, which reviewed the anthem word for word for its appropriateness.

“O Canada” was proclaimed Canada’s national anthem on July 1, 1980, one hundred years after it was first sung on June 24, 1880.

I see no reason to change the anthem’s lyrics. The current anthem wording is politically correct and is gender neutral.

What do you think?