Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Restore our anthem politics

I support the "Restore our Anthem" initiative to replace the words "in all thy sons command" to the gender neutral "in all of us command."

The reactions early on to this latest initiative in the letters to the editor sections of the National Post and Globe were fairly supportive, sometimes a little silly but definitely not reflective of a major backlash of the variety that was seen in 2010 following the Harper government's effort to take this step.

The Harper Throne Speech of early 2010 came following Harper's second prorogation of Parliament, both viewed as illegitimate. The second was to avoid accountability on Afghanistan and torture allegations. Harper's second prorogation was lengthy and provoked large street demonstrations that many of us attended. Harper justified that prorogation with the claim that he needed to "recalibrate" his government's agenda. Yet what he brought forth, proposals such as Seniors Day and the national anthem lyric changes, wasn't viewed as substantive enough to have shut down Parliament for the sake of his "recalibration." This may have had something to do with the disapproval of the proposed lyric changes to the anthem expressed at that time. That and the Olympics buzz.

And who wants the Prime Minister, who is widely viewed as the lone gun leader of this government, re-writing the words of the national anthem in any event? Better that it come from a popular movement to test the waters and let support build. That's what this new initiative is doing.

Flash forward to today, a political point. Peggy Nash's office responded earlier today to someone I know on the anthem change with this email:
Date: October 9, 2013 at 3:07:30 PM EDT
Subject: RE: Attention: This issue is important to me as a Canadian

Thank you for contacting our office to share your opinion on our national anthem. We welcome the debate, and as NDP leader Tom Mulcair has said, we feel that the anthem can always be improved.

Unfortunately, under the Conservatives gender equality in Canada has significantly eroded. They shut down Status of Women Canada offices, weakened its mandate and flatly ignored the Pay Equity Task Force’s recommendations to promote fairness in Canadian workplaces. They also made no improvement to programs that can best support women’s equality—such as affordable child care, Employment Insurance, home care for loved ones and affordable housing.

Once again, thank you for your sharing your view on gender inclusive language in the national anthem. New Democrats will continue to support and push for gender equality.

Peggy Nash
Member of Parliament - Députée | Parkdale - High Park (emphasis added)
Except, that is not what Tom Mulcair said at all. He did not leave any doors open to improve the words of the anthem:
I think that when you start tinkering with an institution like a national anthem, that you’re looking for problems,” Mulcair said when asked about the proposal.

“We seem to have agreed on the English and French versions as they are and I think that’s probably a good thing.
I searched but could not find any modification of the Mulcair statement in any subsequent comments by him. 

2013 is not 2010. And this movement to change the words comes from a multi-partisan group of individuals who seek to garner support. They should be encouraged to do so by those who care about gender equality.