Two words can make a major difference.

By Claudia Fisher
February 02, 2018
Canadian flag for new gender-neutral anthem, O Canada
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

National anthems are supposed to stir up a sense of pride, and Canada's new English version of its national anthem, O Canada, aims to do just that.

Canada’s Senate approved a bill on Wednesday to tweak the wording of O Canada so the country will have a gender-neutral national anthem. The second line will change from “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command.” 

“This may be small – it’s about two words – but it’s huge in terms of one of our major national symbols, the anthem we sing with pride about our country," Ontario Senator Francis Lankin told reporters. "And we can now sing it with pride knowing the rules will support us, the law will support us in terms of the language and we will sing — all of us.”

Twelve bills have been introduced in Parliament on the issue since 1980, when O Canada officially became the Canadian national anthem, the BBC notes.

The bill that set precedent Wednesday was first passed by the House of Commons in 2016 after being introduced by Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger, who died later that year from ALS. In the past 18 months, supporters of the legislature had to overcome opposition from some Conservative senators, who stalled the bill’s progress, according to The Guardian.

While the new bill awaits a ceremoniousness sign-off by the governor general to go into effect, Lankin has already fielded a lot of reactions. While the lyric adjustment to O Canada has strong support from Canadian women, Lankin said, she has also received calls from some "very angry people” over the national-anthem controversy.

“They referred to the words as being almost sacred,” she told the New York Times. “When I’ve walked them through the history, they’re shocked.” The song's original French lyrics – which do not contain the disputed line – didn’t stick when an English version of the song was adapted.

Many influential proponents joined Lankin in celebrating the news on Wednesday. Current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted an optimistic sentiment after the bill's passage.

Novelist Margaret Atwood and former Prime Minister Kim Campbell also posted their support of the legislation passing. The two previously supported the change effort over the years.

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