Interim councillor calling for 'O Canada' change
A Canadian flag attached to a ski pole is waved on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, April 15, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Her political career at city hall may be short-lived, but the interim councillor for Trinity-Spadina will likely be remembered in Canadian history books for years to come if her motion to make 'O Canada' gender neutral passes.
Ceta Ramkhalawansingh, who was appointed the new councillor for the downtown ward in July, will introduce the motion at Monday's council meeting. City council does not have the power to amend the National Anthem Act, however it can ask Ottawa to change the lines in the English lyrics of the anthem.
"This motion seeks to reaffirm city council's continued leadership and advocacy on gender inclusion by making 'O Canada' gender inclusive," the notice reads. It was seconded by Toronto Centre-Rosedale Coun. Pam McConnell.
Ramkhalawansingh, a retired city staffer and former manager of the city's diversity management and community engagement unit, is not the first person to call for more gender-neutral language in the English lyrics of 'O Canada.'
Last October, a group of well-known Canadian women, including author Margaret Atwood and former prime minister Kim Campbell, started a campaign to also change the English anthem.
They created a website called RestoreOurAnthem.ca. It was launched on the 100th anniversary of when the group says the original English lyrics were revised from "thou dost in us command," to "in all thy sons command."
The official English lyrics of Canada's anthem are based on a poem written in 1908 by Justice Robert Stanley Weir. They were changed several times before the lyrics were proclaimed as Canada's national anthem in 1980 under the National Anthem Act. Since then, there have been nine private member's bills calling for the Canadian government to make the language of the anthem gender neutral, according to Ramkhalawansingh's motion.
Ramkhalawansingh will serve as the interim councillor for the downtown ward until the Oct. 27 municipal election. City council appointed her to the position after Adam Vaughan stepped down earlier this year. He was elected the Liberal MP for the Trinity-Spadina riding in a June 30 byelection.