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Canada’s National Anthem

Updated on June 28, 2013

The National Antehm

The only national anthem most Canadians know of is “O Canada”, yet that song did not become our national anthem until July 1, 1980! As a British colony, the only anthem Canada had was “God save the Queen” (“King” when appropriate). In 1867, the year self-governing Dominion status was granted (or independence), the song “The Maple Leaf Forever” was composed and sung. While popular in English-speaking Canada its obvious English bias meant it never caught on in Quebec.

The first version of “O Canada” was produced for a National Congress of French Canadians in 1880. The words are substantially different from the official version of today.

" O Canada! Our fathers' land of old
Thy brow is crown'd with leaves of red and gold.
Beneath the shade of the Holy Cross
Thy children own their birth
No stains thy glorious annals gloss
Since valour shield thy hearth.
Almighty God! On thee we call
Defend our rights, forfend this nation's thrall,
Defend our rights, forfend this nation's thrall."

This version may have been too Roman Catholic for the Anglophones of the time and in 1908 new English words were produced.

“O Canada! In praise of thee we sing;
From echoing hills our anthems proudly ring.
With fertile plains and mountains grand
With lakes and rivers clear,
Eternal beauty, thou dost stand
Throughout the changing year.
Lord God of Hosts! We now implore
Bless our dear land this day and evermore,
Bless our dear land this day and evermore."

This was still not regarded as Canada’s national anthem, and into the 1920’s it was “The Maple Leaf Forever” that was regarded by many as the anthem. Over the years, “O Canada” received official authorization for use at public events but it was still not made the official national anthem. It was not until 1966 that action was taken to make “O Canada” the national anthem, and that action was not concluded until 1980!

Now that we have a National Anthem people are complaining that the words are not inclusive enough. While Canada is our home, for many of us it is not our “native land”. Patriotism is enjoined only upon the sons while half (or more) of our population are daughters. Moreover, atheists don’t like the reference to God. This has led to attempts to change the words, and for some, even the song itself.

The simplest change is to replace the authorized first verse with the second verse:

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!

Some have suggested a more radical change, replacing “O Canada” with a more politically correct version of “The Maple Leaf Forever”. The historical connotations of the tune, however, have probably destroyed any chance of this tune and even politically correct words from being acceptable.

The New Version of the Maple Leaf Forever

Which Anthem?

Which song do you prefer for Canada's National Anthem?

See results

Perhaps if we can’t leave well enough alone we should do what Canadians have historically done, import a song from elsewhere and naturalize it!

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