Cheers to the anthem

Trevor Hutchinson headshot

By Trevor Hutchinson

A graduate of the University of Toronto, Trevor Hutchinson is a songwriter, writer and bookkeeper. He serves as Contributing Editor at The Lindsay Advocate. He lives with his fiancee and their five kids in Lindsay.

The other night I was enjoying a beautiful Bud Light while taking a crack at coming up with rewrites to our national anthem.

Nah, I am kidding. I have never been a big fan of Bud Light, or at least until I found out that as a soldier in the culture wars, I am supposed to like it and even conspicuously consume it. I have bought the Pride-themed special edition packaging for an LGBTQ2S+ friend to show solidarity but I really have only ever drank the stuff in an emergency. (A beer emergency, obviously.)

And not that I’m a beer snob. I wish I was all about micro-brews but I just like a different (very corporate) beer, better.

And there is no anthem change I could suggest that would ever be better than Canadian soul singer Jully Black’s change at the 2023 NBA all-star game. Her subtle change of one line to “our home on Native land” is beyond brilliant. I for one think we should all start singing it that way.

Some, especially the ‘but you can’t just change history’ crowd might object to changing the anthem. To be fair, all of us can be change resistant. When Peter Gabriel left the rock band Genesis in 1975, was it still really Genesis with Phil Collins singing? Tough call.

But if we learn anything on this mortal coil it is that life is change. And history? It is the study of change over time.

Take our anthem for example. The original song, commissioned in 1880 was originally in French. It went through several different translations. In 1908, a leading magazine of the time had a competition to rewrite the English translation.

The religious fourth verse that people have argued about for years was itself added in 1926, almost half a century after the original. Some people may recall the argument of taking out the gendered “in all thy sons command” which grabbed the occasional headline from 1990 until well past the official change by parliament in 2016. Opponents of this change always seemed to omit the fact that “in all thy sons command” was itself a change made in 1913, changing it from a gender-neutral translation.

Not to mention that ‘O Canada’ didn’t even become our national anthem until 1980.

But what does a corporate beer currently facing organized opposition to its seasonal Pride packaging and our ever-changing national anthem have in common? For some of us, over the next two months, quite a lot. Bud Light is the official beer of the NHL and it is hockey playoff time, which for some reason involves national anthems even though it is not a competition between countries.

So those of us who love hockey will hear the anthem quite a few times and some of us might just raise a pride-packaged beer to toast change and our favourite team.


  1. Duane Harrison says:

    What were the original non gendered version lyrics?

  2. Trevor Hutchinson says:

    “Revisions were made to Weir’s version in 1913, 1914 and 1916. In The Common School Book of Vocal Music, published by the Educational Book Company of Toronto in 1913, the original line “True patriot love thou dost in us command ” was changed to “True patriot love in all thy sons command. ” This particular change was also included in a version published by Delmar in 1914, and in all versions printed thereafter. There is no evidence as to why the change to “sons” was made, although it is worth noting that the women’s suffrage movement was at its most controversial around 1913, and by 1914 and 1916 there was an enormous surge of patriotism during the First World War, at a time when only men could serve in the armed forces.”

  3. Many believe the lyrics were changed to “in all our sons’ command” as an armed forces recruitment strategy. To fight in those days, persons born girls had to become boys.

    I favour the “true patriot love thou dost in us command” version. It’s more lyrical, grammatically correct, and inclusive than the current official lyrics.

    Black’s lyrics “our home on Native land” assume racial primacy for Canada’s little piece of planet Earth as if some humans, by virtue of racial DNA, have an innate entitlement the rest of humanity does not to live anywhere. They suggest that even if someone was born here, even if generations of their people were born here, if their DNA migrated here after that of Canada’s First Peoples, they have no right or reason to love this land because it’s not their home, not really. They are cuckoos in the nest, beholden and indentured.

    Black’s perspective on Canada is not mine. But it’s the perspective of others and I respect that.

    Perspectives are stories, after all – fictions neither right nor wrong – not the truth.

    Truth itself exists but as it exists only in endless temporal duration, we mere mortals do not know it. We live in a vast and mysterious reality we each describe and understand from our own perspectives, according to our own experiences. In that sense, all our stories are equal.

    So, it’s all good, O Canada, our home.

  4. Wallace says:

    If I truly believed the land I was living on belonged to someone else, I’d give it back. Or I would not have bought it in the first place. I guess talking with so much virtue is easier though huh?

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