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A thoroughly Woke version of the anthem that will last till the next fad comes along

Bruce DowbigginOne of the highlights of the recent Super Bowl was a heartfelt, unembellished rendering of The Star Spangled Banner by country star Chris Stapleton. So gripping was his unaccompanied version of the song heard a million times that tears flowed freely from the eyes of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni. The huge crowd was stilled – and no one on either team took a knee.

There is debate about whether the SSB should be the U.S. national anthem. The NFL fed the revisionist spirit with Babyface doing a soulful America The Beautiful and Sheryl Lee Ralph performing the putative black anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing. What can be said is that none of the artists took liberties with the lyrics of the three songs. And all were done with sincerity.

Then there is Canada’s national anthem. At the recent NBA All Star Game, Canadian chanteuse Jully Black became the latest singer to attempt a manicure to the English lyrics of O Canada, penned for the 1880 Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony (Calixa Lavallée composed the music, after which words were written by the poet and judge Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. The English lyrics have “evolved” over the years.)

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Black amended the first line from “our home and native land” to our home ON native land”. Because something-something. But this creative license is nothing new. Unlike Chris Stapleton, Marvin Gaye or Whitney Houston with the SSB, interpreters of O Canada have seen fit to amend the lyrics to their sensibilities. Roger Doucet, famed anthem singer of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970 and 80s, tried to add the words “we stand on guard for truth and liberty” in place of the first “we stand on guard for thee”.

In 1990, having nothing better to do, Toronto City Council voted 12 to seven in favour of recommending that the phrase “our home and native land” be changed to “our home and cherished land” and that “in all thy sons command” be partly reverted to “in all of us command”.

While those attempts had mixed outcomes, it appears it’s just a matter of time till Ms. Black’s class-conscious culling of the words is accepted. Being generous, I thought I’d short-circuit piecemeal attempts to create a thoroughly Woke version of the anthem that would last till the latest fad comes along. Herewith our definitive O Canada that even – maybe only – Justin Trudeau could love:

“O Canada” (Ignores the French fact in our culture). Change to “Eau Canada.”

“Our home on native land” (ignores indigenous land claims). Change to “Get off our land, settlers.”

“True patriot love in all of us commands” (Only true patriot love? There are now officially 78 kinds of relationships in Trudeaupia. And commanding love?). Change to “Love the one you’re with.”

“With glowing hearts we see thee rise” (rise suggests the triumph of white triumphalist dogma). Change to “Non judgmentally we oppose the crushing impacts of Euro-based autocracy.”

“The true north strong and free” (How can anyone be strong or free when we support America’s killing fields?). Change to “Heteronormative thinking must be stamped out at our borders. If we even have borders anymore.”

“From far and wide” (Body shaming) Change to “Obesity is a disease that is not helped by putting it in the national anthem.”

“O Canada” (biased against A, B, AB blood types). Change to “Science Must Be Believed.”

“We stand on guard for thee” (Spreads hate against the non-ableist community). Change to “Please remain seated.”

“God keep our land” (God? God? What is this, the Reformation?). “Change to “It’s your thing.”

” Glorious and free” (Glorious harkens to the bourgeois subjugation of Indigenous thought processes by white Christian priests). Change to “A genocidal state if there ever was one.”

“O Canada we stand on guard for thee/

O Canada we stand on guard for thee” The denial of trans rights is used twice here to emphasize the intolerable burdens faced by people of the LGBTQ2R community as they seek respect and compensation for the evils of the founding oppressors. Change to “Eau Canada, after 6.5 hours of intensive lectures on the gender, race and dissociative application of class war on your citizens you may someday come to understand that this song is a manifestation of your bigotry and exploitation of minorities – and why rhyming lines like “thee and free” is the work of the devil or J.K. Rowling, whoever comes to mind first.”

There. That wasn’t so tough, was it? Flows trippingly off the tongue like Trudeau refusing a special inquiry into China buying the electoral process. Or perhaps we should simply accept a literal translation of the original French lyrics:

O Canada!
Land of our ancestors
Glorious deeds circle your brow
For your arm knows how to wield the sword
Your arm knows how to carry the cross;
Your history is an epic
Of brilliant deeds
And your valour steeped in faith
Will protect our homes and our rights.

Or maybe we should just get Chris Stapleton to sing O Canada the way it was written. And leave it at that.

Bruce Dowbiggin is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the eighth best professional hockey book by His 2004 book Money Players was voted seventh best.

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