OTTAWA (Reuters) - Don’t mess with a century-old tradition even if it is sexist, Canadians told the Conservative government this week, forcing Ottawa to scrap plans to make the country’s national anthem gender-neutral.
The government tucked the idea into a major policy speech on Tuesday and by Friday the public outcry was so strong Prime Minister Stephen Harper backtracked.
“We offered to hear from Canadians on this issue and they have already spoken loud and clear,” said Dimitri Soudas, Harper’s spokesman.
“They overwhelmingly do not want to open the issue. The government will not proceed any further to change our national anthem,” he said.
For nearly 100 years, the anthem has included the line, “True patriot love in all thy sons’ command.”
Harper wanted to start a public discussion on whether to change the wording in a way that would not exclude the nation’s daughters. He took the initiative on the advice of a female senator, according to National Post columnist Don Martin.
The opposition Liberals called it a gimmick proving the Conservatives were not serious about women’s rights.
Complaints from irked citizens poured in to radio and television shows, invoking the sanctity of national symbols and tradition. Many said the timing was particularly unfortunate, coming the week the Vancouver Winter Olympics ended.
Canadians took home a record 14 gold medals during the Games, and the country heard the anthem repeatedly during flag-raising ceremonies for the winners.
Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Frank McGurty