Mitchel Raphael on senator Frum, princess Di’s lawyer and new lyrics for ‘o canada’

Mitchel Raphael on senator Frum, princess Di’s lawyer and new lyrics for ‘o canada’


A Senator’s busy retirement

A Senator’s busy retirement

Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

Tory Sen. Linda Frum held a book launch in her home for Anthony Julius’s new book Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England. Julius, a lawyer and professor, famously represented Diana, Princess of Wales in her divorce from Prince Charles. Diana knew Julius because he had helped her sue a newspaper after its photographer invaded her privacy by snapping photos of her working out.

Anthony Julius

Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

When Diana asked Julius to represent her for her divorce, he had never done that kind of legal work: “This would be my first divorce,” he told her. Diana quickly said, “It will be mine, too,” and said they would figure it out together. Attendees at the book launch included Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and recently retired senator Jerry Grafstein, who is part of a group of investors interested in buying the National Post, Ottawa Citizen and Montreal Gazette, and who will soon launch the Wellington Street Post, an online paper named after the famous street that runs in front of Parliament Hill. The website plans to cover politics from a federal perspective.

Bev Oda’s hair fascinates

Glen Peason (L) and Bev Oda (R)

Photographs by Mitchel Raphael

Three years ago, Liberal MP Glen Pearson, known for his humanitarian work in Sudan, asked the government for aid for Sudan, and $3 million was approved. The money went to such projects as women’s centres that helped on the educational and micro-enterprise front. When Pearson was in Sudan this year, he took with him pictures of International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda to show the Sudanese the minister who had approved the funds. They were surprised to learn it was a woman who had approved the money, and also that she was not white. But the most fascinating thing for them was Oda’s short blunt haircut. Sudanese women are known for their elaborate hairstyles.

Pearson is currently asking the government to commit $6 million more. He is the CIDA critic but has been criticized by members of his own party for not attacking Oda. He never asks her questions in the House. The Liberals get someone else to go after Oda in question period. Pearson says his style is to work with people to help get aid where it needs to go.

No more ‘in all thy sons command’?

Nancy Ruth (L) and Vivienne Poy (R)

Photographs by Mitchel Raphael

When Parliament returns, Tory Sen. Nancy Ruth plans to get back to her national anthem project. Instead of the words “in all thy sons command,” Ruth sings the more gender-inclusive “thou dost in us command,” which were the original English-language lyrics. The senator has been unable to discover why the lyrics were changed after 1908. Her best guess is that it was to encourage men to join the military around the time of the First World War. If the military reason is correct, notes Ruth, then the lines don’t reflect the fact that in today’s Canadian military women serve and die for their country. The changing of the anthem’s lyrics has been an ongoing project in the Senate. Liberal Sen. Vivienne Poy was working on it when her party was in power. When the Conservatives came in, Poy shared her research with Ruth, who hopes to have her government introduce a bill to change the words. If they don’t, she may introduce the bill herself through the Senate. She only wants to restore those original words of the anthem and not get caught up in a debate about all new lyrics for O Canada, which would be a very “thorny” issue.

May gets in

Elizabeth May

Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

Last year when Green Leader Elizabeth May requested to be in the pre-budget lock-up for party leaders, she had to go through hoops before Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s people let her in. For the upcoming budget on March 4, May says there was no problem getting the okay. “The power of precedence makes a big difference,” says May. Either that, she quips, or some bureaucrat just saw


Mitchel Raphael on senator Frum, princess Di’s lawyer and new lyrics for ‘o canada’

  1. Interesting about "in all thy sons command" being an innovation of 1908-ish, I didn't know that. Good luck, Senator Ruth.

    While you're at it you might remove the absurd archaism of "True patriot love in all thy sons command," which informal surveys show is not understood by 99% of the people who sing it. (It means "inspire true patriot love in all your sons.")

    The problem of meaninglessness will not be solved by "true patriot love thou dost in us command," and meaninglessness is even more of a problem than gender imbalance (which, fortunately, is currently mitigated by the meaninglessness).

    May I suggest (leaving aside other poetic problems with the lyrics, like their sheer blandness):

    O Canada, our home and native land
    True patriots all, for you we proudly stand

    This would be appropriate for the fact that we generally sing the national anthem standing up: it's always good to integrate performance content with performance manner. This would also lend real significance to "We stand on guard for thee" later on, drawing attention to the fact of the singers' standing and turning a metaphorical standing on guard into a performative standing on guard. Neither do the later "stand's" echo this new, earlier "stand" awkwardly, since the later ones don't come at the end of the line and thus don't rhyme. Finally, this new line alliterates the P of "patriots" with the P of "proudly."

    For patriotic reasons, I will forego my usual 10% cut.

    • Brilliant, Jack! Let's get those to Senator Ruth ASAP!

      I was having a real problem with changing 'thy sons' to 'thou dost' because even in 1867, people didn't talk like that. However, I wasn't liking our sons so much anymore now that I know they were a new addition as of 1908. Your lyrics are modern, gender-neutral, and make the entire song make more sense. Oh, and they rhyme!

      How would the French translation stand up?

  2. I like it. Jack, I challenge you to give us a complete O Canada lyric I know youa re the person who can do it.

  3. A lock-up seems like a good idea.

  4. As a new Canadian, and supporter of gender equality, I sing:

    O Canada, my home and chosen land,
    True patriot love in all our hearts command.
    With glowing eyes, we see thee rise,

    • That's nice and all, but you're singing it wrong. I find that offensive.

  5. That's good, too, Jody. Glad you've updated the "native land' thing because, while it's fine for me, I've often thought of the number of people that doesn't apply for.

  6. The French translation does not correspond to what is said in English:
    Disclaimer, I am not a translator, I did this in ten minutes.

    O Canada! Terre de nos aïeux, (O Canada! Land of our ancestors)
    Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux! (Be proud of your glorious exploits)

    or more literally (you forehead bears glorious flowers)

    Car ton bras sait porter l'épée, (Your arm know how to carry a sword)
    Il sait porter la croix! (and how to bear a cross)

    Ton histoire est une épopée (Your story is epic)
    Des plus brillants exploits.( and of many brilliant feats)

    Et ta valeur, de foi trempée, (And your value and your faith)
    Protégera nos foyers et nos droits. ( Will protect our homes and our rights)

    Protégera nos foyers et nos droits. » (Will protect our homes and our rights)

    So no mention of sons, but a reference to the cross. I've never analyzed the anthem before, but I have to say, I expected more references to the Christian faith. Also, no mention of "standing on guard".

  7. OK, I think I've nailed it! Man, I really think I've nailed it. I may be wrong, of course, and I would truly appreciate constructive, or deconstructive, criticism, but here's a new draft. Total bonus: it's the same meaning in English and French! Score! And it doesn't say the same thing six ways! And there's a poetic emotion! Eh bien

    O Canada, our noble northern land
    True patriots all, for you we proudly stand;
    Like snow before the breath of spring
    The years will melt away,
    But we remain, O Canada,
    And stand on guard today.
    Forever one, both young and grey,
    O Canada we stand on guard today.
    O Canada we stand on guard today.

    O Canada, auguste terrain du nord,
    Nous nous levons, fidèles jusqu'à la mort,
    La vie se passe comme la neige
    Se fond en plein printemps
    Mais nous restons, O Canada,
    Pour toi si vigilants
    Ensemble toujours, agé(e)s, enfants,
    O Canada pour toi si vigilants
    O Canada pour toi si vigilants.

    Bilingual (following same pattern of English – French – English now in use)
    O Canada, our noble northern land
    True patriots all, for you we proudly stand;
    La vie se passe comme la neige
    Se fond en plein printemps
    Mais nous restons, O Canada,
    Pour toi si vigilants
    Forever one, both young and grey,
    O Canada we stand on guard today.
    O Canada we stand on guard today.

    • In one of those timing coincidences, here is the beginning of an email I just received:

      TNQ is pleased to Announce Two New Contests
      The Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse Contest
      1,000 dollars for one glorious poem
      Sponsored by TNQ editor Kim Jernigan and family in celebration of the man who sparked their love of poetry, this contest is for poems written in response to an occasion, personal or public-poems of gratitude or grief, poems that celebrate or berate, poems that make of something an occasion or simply mark one.

      So I'm thinking you just link this blog to your submission, highlighting your "response". And in the spirit of patriotism, I'll forego my 5% commission.

      • Thanks, Jenn, I will look into it! But I warn you that your usual 5% commission may be applied whether you like it or not, in case of victory!

  8. Bah, these attempts to make national symbols more politically correct only deflate their importance and drive the jingoistic to less politically correct alternatives like the Maple Leaf Forever (with the "Wolfe the dauntless hero" line). What should matter is our commitment (or lack thereof) to gender equality in policy, not our commitment to deface a song that was good enough for the boys at Vimy Ridge.

  9. You'll be hard pressed to get into verse any song about Canada which does not include "free"

    Although the same meaning in English/French is tres bien.

    • Thanks, Thwim! And good point about "free." Perhaps instead of "Ensemble toujours / Forever one" we could have

      En liberté, agé(e)s, enfants


      Forever free, both young and grey


  10. I think it's more recent than Vimy Ridge, as an anthem. They would undoubtedly have sung "God Save the King."

    • C&P from Wiki:
      The English version that gained the widest currency was written in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir, a lawyer and at the time Recorder of the City of Montreal. A slightly modified version of his poem was published in an official form for the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation in 1927, and gradually became the most generally accepted and performed version, winning out over the alternatives by the 1960s. The tune was thought to have become the de facto national anthem after King George VI remained at the salute during its playing at the dedication of the National War Memorial on May 21, 1939.[5] The parliament of Canada recognised "O Canada" as such in 1967, and it was officially made the national anthem via the National Anthem Act in 1980.

      • Well, that's very interesting, thanks. But I don't think it presents a great obstacle to updating the language, having the French and English versions say the same thing, have a National Anthem that we MEAN to be our National Anthem (as opposed to the somewhat accident it apparently was).

        So go for it Jack!

        • Just trying to buttress Jack's reply to h2h

  11. You'll be hard pressed to get into verse any song about Canada which does not include "free"

    Although the same meaning in English/French is tres bien.

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