Sing All of Us is a campaign to change the wording of Canada's national anthem to replace the phrase "all thy sons" with "all of us."
Sing All of Us asks Canadians to return to singing inclusive lyrics in the English version of O Canada.
The project's Best Practice is providing internet-based education to make it easy for Canadians to take the lead and sing an anthem that reflects Canada's history and heritage – to sing for the country "all of us" have created – with the expectation that official change will follow. The new phrase proclaims what is at the heart of Canada, that diversity and inclusion are the country's strength, and that the future of Canada is about "all of us."
The first goal is to educate and engage Canadians about an important part of their national heritage: their anthems.
The second goal is to encourage Canadians to make a simple change to two simple words in one short line – changes that will embrace and celebrate everyone in Canada. The third goal is to have this simple change reflected in the National Anthem Act. There have been nine bills introduced in Parliament to return to inclusive language in the second line of the English version of the national anthem but none of those have passed. The tenth was introduced in the House of Commons on September 22, 2014.
The Sing All of Us campaign was inspired by Canada's upcoming 150th birthday in 2017. The national anthems are "our" songs. Campaign organizers believe the anthems should reflect the country Canada has become and not the country it was, and therefore should reflect Canadian values and inspire Canadians for the future. Canadians can sing their values and hope that their voices will be heard on Parliament Hill in time for 2017.
Campaign organizers believe there is no better time to restore O Canada to inclusive language than now, as the country prepares to celebrate its sesquicentennial.
Judge R. Stanley Weir, who wrote the original version in 1908, is known to have amended his lyrics. By 1913, he had changed the second line to, "True patriot love in all thy sons command."
The historical record confirms the change but does not supply any reason. Campaign organizers believe the use of the word "sons" privileges the recognition of men over women, and may also have been intended to privilege the recognition of those born in Canada over those born elsewhere.
The National Anthem Act, which was passed in 1980, made it clear that the words of O Canada are in the public domain, meaning they are Canada's words and Canadians can sing for "all of us."
The Sing All of Us campaign founders decided in 2013 – 100 years after the lyrics of O Canada were changed
to refer to "sons" – that it was time to urge Canadians to return to singing a gender-inclusive English anthem.
The words of the English anthem have been changed at least five times since they were first written and they can be changed again to reflect today's Canada.
The first phase of the campaign concentrated on building awareness and spreading the message that it was time for change. That message – with the theme "restore our anthem" – was disseminated via more than 1200 media organizations around the world.
The next phase of the campaign aims to make it fun and easy for all Canadians to sing "all of us."
Making a Difference
The national anthem is a national symbol of Canada, which is widely accessible and widely used. It is, like the Constitution, a source of pride, identity and collective national development. By respecting and reflecting change, the anthem will affirm and nourish inclusion, and recognize it as a public good.
Canadians are rightly proud of their public symbols.
Campaign organizers believe that most Canadians consider the inclusion of the phrase "all thy sons" to be outdated and to have a discriminatory effect. Other Canadians have argued that the phrase is already commonly known and accepted to mean "all of us." Some Canadians wish to protect the traditional reference to "sons" as sacrosanct, suggesting that, "if we do this, what will they want to change next?"
Sing All of Us encourages Canadians to take the next step and sing the inclusive words, as a way of actively affirming Canadian history and values, rather than relying on a passive interpretation.
Vision for the Future
Campaign organizers are working to have the phrase "all of us" introduced and sung by wonderful Canadians who will lead the singing of the national anthem at public events, and to have it introduced and sung in all venues where Canadians gather to acknowledge their country.
About Sing All of Us
The Sing All of Us Campaign is an ad hoc educational effort launched by a group of Canadians in 2013.
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