Lesbian Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth was sitting in the Upper Chamber while the Governor General read out the government’s plans to make the national anthem more gender-neutral — one of Ruth’s top causes since she was appointed in 2005.
“It was like ‘Yes!'” Ruth says. “The Prime Minister had agreed to have a look at the original version of the national anthem, the 1908 version in English.”
That version had the line “Thou dost in us command” rather than “In all thy son’s command” — a revision that is speculated to have been made because of the military recruitment drives at the time.
But the Senator’s elation was short-lived, and a mere 48 hours later, the government said that it was abandoning its proposal to change the anthem.
Cabinet ministers were fairly silent when it came to promoting the issue, including Helena Guergis, the minister of state for the status of women.
“It had passed through Cabinet, and on Wednesday, when it was announced in the Throne Speech, I think they were pretty well universally behind it,” says Ruth. “[When] the public got in an uproar, there were some different comments made.”
“I actually hold some of the media responsible,” says Ruth. “They didn’t once focus on the gender inclusiveness. I was pretty angry at the CBC and other places in the media that made fun of it. But it certainly shows that when any change or reform or anything is proposed, it’s always the naysayers who get in first, and those who think about it, then they come in. But then it was too late.”
While she admits that it may have been bad timing after the Olympics and the spontaneous outbursts of the anthem, she nevertheless believes it’s part of a larger societal issue.
Ruth plans to continue to push the issue and has heard that Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett is planning to move a revised English and French version of the anthem.
“She might introduce it this week, and I’ve asked her not to introduce it unless she gets NDP support in the House, and I will introduce it at the same time in the Senate with Liberal support, so it will be all-party from the beginning. Canadians have been around this so many times, but there are a lot of angry women, and mothers and fathers out there who think their daughters or themselves should be included. Why not?”
“I am a feminist, that’s clear, and the Prime Minister is aware of that too,” the Senator says.
“You know we can’t get more women nominated in the political process, we can’t pass a bill here demanding that Crown corporations have a minimum 50 percent women on their boards, or any federally regulated institution which would include the banks. There are still huge issues that we cannot move forward, and when you try, and you feel relatively powerless, as some days I do, it’s a problem. It remains a problem.”
Dale Smith is Xtra’s federal politics blogger. Read him every weekday at Hill Queeries.