Oh Canada


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Well, like Adolph-Basile Routhier, he was a Quebec lawyer. That's to say, "O Canada" was entirely written by Quebeckers, even the English version. Indeed, Mr Weir was, like Sir Adolph-Basile, a judge of the Exchequer Court of Canada the forerunner of today's Federal Court , which is a remarkably specialized institution to which to grant a monopoly on authorship of "O Canada" lyrics.

Weir composed his version at his beautiful country home Cedarhurst in Quebec's Eastern Townships. Where Routhier's words are heartfelt and pastoral and a personal philosphy, Weir is much more aware that he's writing a song for a nation to sing:. Our home and native land True patriot love In all thy sons command With glowing hearts We see thee rise The true north strong and free That last line owes something to Lord Tennyson, written in , when there was a modish sentiment among certain members of the London political class to cut loose Britannia's lion cubs.

Tennyson contrasted metropolitan indifference with the fierce loyalty of Canada:. And that true North, whereof we lately heard A strain to shame us "keep you to yourselves; So loyal is too costly! And, whether or not the north is still true, Weir's appropriation of Tennyson planted the phrase in the Canadian iconography now and forever. Still and all, "O Canada" remains a French song.

How do we know that? Because of the one line Weir retained from Routhier's original, the very first line - because by then it was too well-known to consider changing. But what was he to do? It was the most famous line of the song, and so firmly established in public consciousness you couldn't change it.

And so, even as francophones soured on "O Canada" in the latter half of the twentieth century, they bequeathed to their anglos their pronunciation of a discarded homeland. If you object to all the plans to rewrite Weir's sexist xenophobic lyric "our home and native land", "in all thy sons command" in recent years, well, it took the author himself almost two decades to settle on a final version: He tinkered back and forth all the way to Canada's Diamond Jubilee in , when belatedly most of the version we know today got set in stone.

But, although it was popular that year, it was not yet official, an instrument of state. It enjoyed the status of, say, "God Bless America" south of the border or "Land of Hope and Glory" in the Mother Country - a beloved but informal national song. If you want to pinpoint a moment when its status changed, it would be July 26th at the dedication of the Canadian war memorial at Vimy in France.

The band played "God Save the King" and everybody stood, naturally.

Why did he do this? Who knows? As with so much else in his life, he was likely just winging it. Three years later, his short reign was over, and his brother was on the throne. But, when George VI came to dedicate the national war memorial in Ottawa on May 21st , during the playing of "O Canada" he too remained at the salute. From that day forth the song was accorded the respect due a national anthem even if it was not yet one officially.

The road to full-blown anthemic officialdom would take another four decades, in the course of which "The Maple Leaf Forever" faded away it's all but unknown today , "God Save the Queen" continued to be sung in Ontario and "O Canada" in Quebec, and in the Sixties Lester B Pearson eventually put his foot down and said we needed to make a choice one way or the other - which, of course, is not really the Canadian way.


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The song was a hundred years old - or, to be more exact, a hundred years and one week old. A decade earlier, the Queen of Canada had purchased the copyright from the publishers for one dollar, and her officials had then spent much of the Seventies trying to persuade the Weir family to agree to certain changes in the lyric - most notably the introduction of the words "God keep our land" before "glorious and free". It's almost impossible a mere 40 years on to imagine the Government going to bat for the Almighty, but the phrase does bring Weir's text closer to the spirit of Routhier's.

Unfortunately, it established the precedent that the words of "O Canada" are endlessly mutable by the Canadian state, which is why the boors and solipsists who infest our Parliament are forever proposing further amendments, most notably replacing "in all thy sons command" with the weedy and bland "in all of us command".


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If the objection is that it would be nice to have a national anthem with some mention of females, wouldn't it be easier to go back to "God Save the Queen"? Meanwhile, as in so many other aspects of Canadian life, the French version is inviolable. Sir Adolph-Basile's original sails on unblemished, mainly because no anglo MP would be impertinent enough to propose modifying it and, through its third-of-a-century of official status, most Bloquistes would have preferred to abolish it.

Yet, if the song changed, so too did those who created it. In my gloomier moments, I sometimes wonder if the post-"O Canada" lives of the men and institutions behind "O Canada" isn't just as telling about what's happened to Canadian nationalism. A mere five years later, they were protesting the Governor General, Georges Vanier, as a traitor - " Vanier vendu " Vanier the sell-out and a " fou de la reine " court jester to the Queen.

They have been irredeemably anti-royalist, anti-anglo and anti-Canadian ever since. In his last years, the composer of our national anthem became a proponent of Canada joining the United States. So Canada's national anthem was commissioned by a group that wants to secede from the Canadian state and composed by a man who wanted to abolish the Canadian state. Only Sir Adolph-Basile Routhier remained true to the true north.

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O Canada – Unofficial Vietnamese Translation

But, if the tragedy for Robert Stanley Weir's text is that too many English-Canadians reject his words, the tragedy for Routhier's text is that almost all French-Canadians reject his vision of Canada. In Britain and around the Commonwealth, the second chorus of "God Save the Queen" has fallen out of favour in our squeamish age "Scatter her enemies It would be interesting to do the same with "O Canada", and see the reaction if they were to schedule Routhier's unabashed fourth chorus at today's ceremonies:.

Sacred love Of the throne and the altar Fill our hearts With your immortal breath! Among the foreign races Our guide is the law Tell us how to be a people of brothers Under the yoke of faith And repeat, like our fathers, The battle cry: "For Christ and King!

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But for Mark's Maple Songbook we've been focusing on a few numbers that might not appear to be Canadian at all. Click away to enjoy a high school anthem from London's East End , the first-ever Billboard American Number One record , some New York francopop , the quintessential Brazilian bossa nova , pop music's most direct and unabashed response to September 11th , and Frank Sinatra's "national anthem by a "little Arab".

Because we're posting our Song of the Week a day early, join us for a bonus musical entertainment tomorrow in our regular Sunday slot. Members of The Mark Steyn Club get to hit the comments section. So, if you're the last stouthearted anglophone to prefer "The Maple Leaf Forever" or the last loyalist francophone to bellow "God Save the Queen", get typing below. For more on The Mark Steyn Club, see here. All rights reserved. No part of this website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of Mark Steyn Enterprises.

If you're a member of The Mark Steyn Club and you take issue with this article, then have at it in our comments section. Submission of reader comments is restricted to Mark Steyn Club members only. If you are not yet a member, please click here to join. If you are already a member, please log in here:.

I always sing O Canada from end to end in French. Immigrants should learn it in French rather than English, and understanding the words should be part of any citizenship test. One line you can try is to point out that possibly a majority of Wolfe's soldiers spoke Gaelic in preference to English. There are some songs relating to the battle, which can be found here a good CD , maybe you could give it a plug? I remember singing it in grade school once or twice probably in the s.

A fascinating piece, Mark. I've never heard the story of "O Canada" spelled out in such detail. It's much more interesting than I thought. I wonder if Justin Bieber-Trudeau-surfer-dude knows any of this. Probably not. Your column taught me more about O Canada than I'd ever known, Mark, but I feel the need to stick up for the Maple Leaf Forever on sheer musical grounds. As a former teacher of instrumental music, I've always been interested more in melodies, harmonies, and rhythms than lyrics, e.

Oh Canada Eh Ottawa - Home

Perhaps it results from a childhood recall of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon and his fellow Mounties singing it at the end of the early radio episodes. One needs to tread carefully. I once observed in the presence of my dear late mother-in-law that I preferred the Russian anthem to the American anthem when it happened to be played on TV, and nearly brought her to tears at the surmise that her daughter had married a commie. The Maple Leaf Forever and the Star Spangled Banner alas, not one of my favorite anthems melodically both start with a pickup note, as does America the Beautiful.

O Canada

More significantly, both sets of lyrics teach listeners a bit of a history lesson, and that appeals to me as a conservative. Mark should provide a link to a "correct" singing of "O Canada! Some people at a Wisconsin rally jeered after U. For the third year in a row, Trump skipped out on the White House Correspondents Dinner -- a high-profile event traditionally attended by the president and political reporters. But instead of attending this year, Trump held a rally in Green Bay, Wis.

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In-between unscripted rants about potential Democratic Party challengers and shots against the media, he mentioned Canada, one of the biggest trading partners of the United States. Throughout the past three years, Trump has taken shots at Canada over trade, a U. Trump fans jeer as he suggests singing 'O Canada' during rally. Related Stories Morneau acknowledges 'clouds' hanging over possible free trade deals. Canada, international allies butt heads over focus on white supremacism. Socialists win Spain election, far-right emerges as player.

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