O Canada: A History of Controversies

Ô Canada: A History of controversies

Jully Black’s rendition of O Canada in the National Basketball League (NBA) All-Star Game last month made more than one react. Instead of singing “Our home and native land” (Notre patrie et pays natal), the Canadian singer sang “Our home on native land >» (Our Homeland on Indigenous Land).

The singer notably shared on Twitter the hateful message she received following her performance.

But if this impromptu change has launched a whole debate in the country, it must be remembered that this is not the first time that our English-speaking compatriots have fought over the national anthem.

Composed in 1880 by Calixa Lavallée (music) and Judge Adolphe-Basile Routhier (lyrics), O Canadawas first an anthem for French Canadians. It has four stanzas (or couplets), but only the first has been preserved in the official version we know today:

O Canada! Land of our ancestors,
Your forehead is crowned with glorious florets!
For your arm knows how to carry the sword,
It knows how to carry the cross!

Your history is an epic
Of the most brilliant exploits.
And your valour, of tempered faith,

Shall protect our homes and our rights.
Will protect our homes and our rights.

The original version included three additional verses, where Christianity held an important place, in the historical context of a quiet pre-revolution Quebec.

Under the eye of God, near the giant river ,
The Canadian grows up hoping.
He is of a proud race,
Blessed was his cradle.
The sky marked his career
In this new world.
Always guided by his light,
He will keep the honor of his flag,
He will keep the honor of his flag.

From his patron, precursor of the true God,
He wears on his forehead the halo of fire.
Enemy of tyranny But full of loyalty.
He wants to keep in harmony,
His proud freedom;
And by the effort of his genius,
On our soil sit the truth.< br>On our ground sit the truth.

Sacred love of throne and altar,
Fill our hearts with your immortal breath!
Among foreign races,
Our guide is the law;
Let us know how to be a people of brothers,
Under the yoke of faith.
And let us repeat, like our fathers
The victorious cry: For Christ and the King,
The winning cry: For Christ and the King.

While the lyrics subsequently remained unchanged, it was a whole different story for the English version.

Words that divide

It was not until 1901 that the anthem, composed in 1880, was heard in English Canada. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, the first English version of O Canadais a literal transcription of two out of four verses of the French version, by Thomas B. Richardson.

This version will not receive a warm reception. Collier’s Weekly magazine will then hold a contest to find acceptable lyrics. Some 350 versions will be submitted and it is that of a certain Mercy E. Powell McCulloch, who will be declared the winner in August 1909.

Despite everything, this version will not win popular favor either. Many other versions will be written in the years that follow, including that of the poet Wilfred Campbell and that of the critic Augustus Bridle. Ewing Buchan, a Vancouver bank manager, would write another, which would gain significant popularity in British Columbia, presumably aided by the promotion of it by the Vancouver Club.

Official version

However, it’s the version of Robert Stanley Weir, a lawyer and clerk, who would later be a judge for the City of Montreal, which will go down in history as the official version. Here is the original version by Robert Stanley Weir:

O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love thou dost in us command.
We see thee rising fair, dear land,
The True North, strong and free;
And stand on guard, Ô Canada,

We stand on guard for thee.

O Canada! O Canada! O Canada! We stand on guard for thee.
O Canada! We stand on guard for thee.

O Canada! Where pines and maples grow,
Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow,
How dear to us thy broad domain,
From East to Western Sea;
Thou land of hope for all who toil!
Thou True North, strong and free !

O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies
May stalwart sons and gentle maidens rise,
To keep thee steadfast through the years,
From East to Western Sea.
Our own beloved native land,
Our True North , strong and free!

Ruler Supreme, Who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our dominion within Thy loving care.
Help us to find, O God, in Thee,
A lasting, rich reward,
As waiting for the Better Day
We ever stand on guard.&nbsp ;

This version of O Canada was written in 1908 on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the foundation of Quebec and was arranged by George Alfred Grant-Schafer, But even this official version will undergo many changes, notably in 1913, 1914 and 1916.

Also according to the Canadian Encyclopedia, the original line “True patriot love thou dost in us command” will be changed to “True patriot love in all thy sons command.” 

In this original line, the word “thouis actually a second person singular subject pronoun, which refers to Canada. It is not known why this change was made, but it is safe to speculate that it could be due to patriotism related to the First World War, during which enlistment was strictly reserved for men.

Changes and debates

Other minor changes were made to Robert Stanley Weir's lyrics after they were widely published in 1927. anthem, notably the use of the term “thy sons“, among other things, is beginning to emerge.

After it was adopted as the official anthem in 1980, many proposals were made to change the lyrics to O Canada. In 1990, Toronto City Council voted to recommend that Ottawa replace the words “our home and native land” with “our home and cherished land” ( our home and cherished country), so as not to alienate Canadians born outside the country.

In 2016, a bill to change the lyrics “in all thy sounds command” with “in all of us command” is approved by the House of Commons, but it takes seven separate debates in the Senate before the bill is finally approved on January 31, 2018. All Conservative senators, however, boycotted the final vote.

En français svp!

Probably the most frequent contact most Canadians have with their national anthem is its performance before every televised hockey game when a Canadian team is playing. If, in Montreal, a bilingual anthem is performed during Canadiens games, it should be remembered that during the time of the Nordiques, in Quebec City, between 1972 and 1995, O Canada was interpreted only in French. .

L’ historian Benoît Clairoux, author of the book Les Nordiques de Québec, says he remembers that the club even had an agreement with the Winnipeg Jets whereby the national anthem at the Coliseum was sung in both official languages ​​when the Jets were passing. When the Nordiques played at the Winnipeg Arena, part of the national anthem was in French.

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