Mauril Belanger’s last political wish is for a more inclusive Canada. Since before the November election, the Liberal MP has been trying to officially edit a line in the national anthem to make it gender inclusive. He has proposed The National Anthem Act to change ‘in all thy sons command’ to the gender-neutral ‘in all of us command.’ With the new Liberal majority, his hopes were high.
Diagnosed with ALS last fall and with his health rapidly declining, Belanger brought his bill forward for a second reading last Friday. He arrived in an ambulance and, though he has lost the ability to speak, used an electronic translator to insist that ‘Canada is all of us, not some of us’ and that that sentiment should be reflected in our anthem. If not sent to a vote that day, bill C-210 would have to wait for decision until Belanger’s next scheduled private member concern day on September 19. It is likely, however, that Belanger will be too unwell to bring his bill back to parliament after the House of Common’s summer break.
Though the Liberals and NDP sent up only one speaker each, the Conservative MPs had many (repetitive) questions and concerns about the change to the anthem. Many spoke about Canada’s iconic symbolism and the importance of tradition to the country. There were concerns that altering the anthem would open a ‘Pandora’s box’ of changing and weakening national symbols. An age-old debate of inclusivity versus tradition. At the end of the hour, the debate had not concluded and Conservative MPs refused to extend it another hour. There could be no vote on May 6.
With the state of the MP’s health and the likelihood that he would be unable to return to debate in September, newbie MP, Linda Lapointe offered up her own time-slot on May 30. The bill has a chance of a June 1 vote with a subsequent committee review in early June. There are still many hoops to jump through before there are any lyric changes to ‘O Canada,’ but the outlook it hopeful. Within the next year we may see a more inclusive national anthem, and hopefully Mauril Belanger is here to see it.