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Singing O Canada


I get mixed up when I sing our National Anthem. They changed the words on me in 1980 and I’ve been confused ever since.

First performed in 1880, it was originally written in Quebec in French and called “Chant National” – words by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier, music by Calixa Lavallee. Before 1880, English Canada had adopted “God Save the King” and “The Maple Leaf Forever” as the patriotic songs sung before an event, official ceremony or public gathering. However, French Canada felt that a new anthem should be written, one that would reflect more accurately the French Canadian experience.

This might explain why the English version of our National Anthem is not a literal translation from the French. While the words to the English version of “O Canada” have changed over the years to reflect the advancements in society, the French version of Canada’s nation anthem has not. This also might explain why I get the words mixed up.

Some surprising (to me) facts that I discovered regarding “O Canada” include:

  • it didn’t become Canada’s official National Anthem until its 100th birthday in 1967
  • Calixa Lavvallee is male – I knew this person as the composer but I always thought they were female (I think the “a” mislead me)
  • words to the English version are based on an original poem by Robert Stanley Weir written in 1908
  • there have been several very different English versions before Judge Weir’s rendition became the winning favourite

To my chargrin or amusement (I haven’t quite decided yet), there exists an unofficial non-gender option that replaces “True patriot love in all thy sons command” with “True patriot love in all thy souls command” which (in my humble opinion) makes Canada sound like it’s inhabited by ghosts. The line in the new official gender-neutral version is now “True patriot’s love in all of us command.”

I don’t think I’m going to remember that change either.




  1.  “O Canada
  2.  O Canada (song)
  3. O Canada! Canadian National Anthem
  4. Canada’s National Anthem Wasn’t Always The Version We Know Today

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