"What of the sexism in the first line of the French version of 'O Canada'?" - Macleans.ca

“What of the sexism in the first line of the French version of ‘O Canada’?”

by

There are many reasonable arguments against changing the lyrics to ‘O Canada’ to make them gender-neutral. This, from today’s editorial in the Globe, isn’t one of them:

But what of the sexism in the first line of the French version, a version that dates from 1880 and has never been changed? O Canada! Land of our forefathers.” Were there no foremothers? Forebears doesn’t really work, because it sounds like four bears.

Er, the word they’re referring to and translating as “forefathers” is aïeux. Had they run this line of argument by a Francophone, they would have quickly discovered aïeux is a gender-neutral word—think “ancestors” rather than “forefathers.”

And “forebears” only sounds like “four bears” in English, which, inconveniently for the Globe, is not the language in which the French version of the anthem is usually sung. In French, “forebears” sounds like, well, like aïeux.