“Thou Dost in Us Command”: Senate Considers Restoring Original Lyrics of O Canada

The upcoming issue of The Dorchester Review will include my article “O Canada and the Two Solitudes,” in which I review the history of the parliamentary debates on altering the lyrics to the English anthem, from 2002 to early 2017.

So I must write about this latest development here on Parliamentum because the issue will soon go to press and should be mailed out in a few weeks.

On 18 May 2017, Senator Donald Neil Plett moved an amendment at Third Reading to Bill C-210, An Act to Amend the National Anthem Act (Gender) which would still conform to the principle of the bill of removing any lyrics from the English O Canada that refer to the male sex. Instead of replacing “True patriot love in all thy sons command” with “True patriot love in all of us command,” Senator Plett’s amendment would restore Robert Stanley Weir’s original lyrics from 1908: “True patriot love thou dost in us command.” Those original lyrics also “gender-neutral” since they use the second person singular subject pronoun “thou” (equivalent to “you”).

Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Therefore, honourable senators, I move:

That Bill C-210 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended in the schedule, on page 2, by replacing the words “in all of” with the words “thou dost in”.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: It is moved by Senator Plett, seconded by Senator Wells that Bill C-210 be not now read a third time but that it be amended in the schedule, on page 2, by replacing the words “in all of” with the words “thou dost in.”

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion in amendment?

Hon. Elaine McCoy: I would like to study this amendment at greater length, in the event that there may be a point of order. In any event, I would like to take the adjournment today.

(On motion of Senator McCoy, debate adjourned.)

The Rules of the Senate allow for amendments at Third Reading. So it is unclear what Senator McCoy’s point of order would be, especially given that Plett’s amendment conforms to and complements the principle of the bill that the Senate accepted at Second Reading.

If the Senate approves this amendment, then the bill would be sent back to the House of Commons for consideration. At this rate, Parliament will not enact any alterations to the lyrics of O Canada for 1 July 2017. 

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About J.W.J. Bowden

My area of academic expertise lies in Canadian political institutions, especially the Crown, political executive, and conventions of Responsible Government; since 2011, I have made a valuable contribution to the scholarship by having been published and cited extensively. I’m also a contributing editor to the Dorchester Review and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law.
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