We can sing of our daughters, too

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by admin on March 17, 2010

By Marcel Gauvreau

Let our hearts command.

National anthems, constitutions and charters are generally adopted by countries to express what they stand for and what unites them.

No one can contest the essence of the Magna Carta Libartatum, the Napoleonic Code or even the American Constitution, and despite their contribution no one will stand by these original works as being perfect; on the contrary, they were flawed, and have since gone through many changes or amendments. Let’s not forget that these manuscripts were composed with the heart and soul of its artists to reflect the dreams and aspirations of its peoples, invariably, retaining more emotion than logic and, consequentially, subject to great error. National Anthems are a perfect example; usually, they are created through poems written in moments of peril or patriotism.

Canada’s national anthem was written for the closing of the Congrés des Canadiens-Français, at the Saint Jean-Batiste celebrations in Québec City of 1880 by authors Calixa Lavallée and Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. Evidently a French anthem could not be completely in tune with the majority of Canadians of the 19th century, most of whom were anglophones and, up until the First World War, considered themselves English Subjects loyal to the throne. Ô Canada was composed by a people longing to see Canada become a nation independent of the Commonwealth. It reflected their soul…their ambitions. It reflected the birth of a nation.

Nevertheless “God Save the Queen/King” was the order of the day for the next 30 years until, in 1908; the Honourable Robert Stanley Weir translated what is generally considered the best rendition of the English version of O Canada to this day. Although it did capture the soul of our enfant nation and its willingness to grow, it remains a translation and, in all honesty, translations rarely capture the true intentions of an original composition. Consider the most celebrated of Canadian poems, In Flanders Field; not surprisingly, the French version hardly retains the same emotion or pathos. In the minutes following one of the bloodiest battles of WWI Lt. Colonel John McCrae wrote, as he lamented the death of a fellow soldier, a poem which has enthralled us for nearly a century, expressing the heart wrenching soul of an emerging nation which stood out and showed the world that Canada is now an independent nation, a proud nation; a nation which did that day shed a most costly price on the altar of freedom.

Voila…our duality.

This is not a national crisis; if our anthem needs to change to reflect a new reality, correct an injustice or error, then so be it, so long as we don’t lose sight in what our forefathers dreamed we would be.

Laura Secord, Marie Marguerite d’Youville, Agnes Macphail and Emily Murphy – who can honestly say that these women did not help create our national identity through their sacrifices and vision?

Some will invariably speak of military contributions … well we have unfortunately read and grieved over too many heroic soldiers as they appear on the front pages of our newspapers lately, most of whom have laid down the ultimate sacrifice in our countries’ commitment to freedom…regardless of their gender.

Will our national pride suffer so much should we decide to honour our women?

Can we, at least, not exclude our daughters?

Marcel Gauvreau lives in Chelsea, Quebec and serves on its municipal council.