O Canada, why the fuss?

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I am old. Well, okay, not old so much as crotchety. I like things how I knew them, and I get cranky when I have to learn a new way when the old way was perfectly acceptable—if only to me.

Thus, as with so many Canadians, when I heard that The Tenors had altered the lyrics of Canada’s national anthem at the MLB All-Star Game last night, I was initially outraged (see video).

But as the evening wore on, and I watched diatribe after diatribe on social media, I began to realize that in many ways, this was a litmus test on what it is to live in Canada, a nation that at the best of times, struggles to define itself if only because it is constantly evolving.

In my life time, we have had two official changes to the English lyrics for O Canada.

Three decades ago, it was a reversion of sorts from “O Canada, glorious and free” to “God keep our land glorious and free”. As a then anti-religious zealot, I was outraged that you would introduce religion into my anthem, being completely ignorant of the fact that it had been there in the beginning (as makes sense for our history). I am less a zealot today, but continue to sing the God-free version.

More recently, Canada’s Parliament has debated rewriting the refrain “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command”, suggesting that women are invested in this country as well as men. I did not rage against this, but many Canadians did, most ignorant that this change too is something of a reversion to an older lyric “dost in us command”.

My point is that the song, like the nation and its people, continues to evolve.

Jazz

A nation for all

And while we as individuals may only wish to accept the version with which we grew up or alternatively, the “official” version enacted by Parliamentary vote, Canadians as a populace have decided to live in a nation that is open to change, open to new views on the world, open to rediscovery of our history as a nation.

My instinctive reaction to last night’s events at the All-Star Game was to cry “Shame”, and if the anthem was used to spread hate or fear, I might still be justified in that cry. Rather, it was used to spread love and acceptance, and what (or so we hold) could be more Canadian?

Perhaps this is too much. Perhaps I am being over-indulgent. But if your heart is pure and you sing the song with pride, what do I care what lyrics you sing? Sing about the Canada you know and love, and sing it loudly so we can all share in that love.

O Canada early years

See also:

Full history of “O Canada”

How the Tenors struck out with O Canada at the MLB All-Star Game

An-anthem-a: A sporting nation sings

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics

Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

This past weekend, Toronto played host to the NBA All-Star Game and among the dozens of events, Canadian recording artist Nelly Furtado was asked to sing O’ Canada. In keeping with her musical stylings (I believe), Ms Furtado decided to sing an interpretation of the song that was slower in tempo and a bit more soul-searching than its typical performance, which annoyed a few people.

Now, I am a sing-it-straight person. I believe national anthems should be performed as intended (let’s not get into changing the lyrics). Thus, when someone opens up with a bit of musical show-boating, I get annoyed. (Call back to Roseanne Barr singing The Star Spangled Banner.)

But you know, that’s my problem.

The controversy, however, opened up another question for me:

Why do we play the national anthem(s) at sporting events?

I could understand an argument for truly international events like the Olympics (played when the winner is chosen) or World Cup (do they play anthems here?), where nationalistic fervor is part of the equation.

But what, for example, about a hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks is particularly nationalistic?

This question is especially germane when you consider the many of the players that perform for these teams are from countries other than the United States and Canada (including Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Finland, etc.), and play in mixed squads.

We don’t play the anthem(s) before live theatre. We don’t play the anthem(s) before sitting down to a meal.

We don’t play the anthem(s) before our hair or dental appointments. We don’t play the anthem(s) before a meeting of the UN Security Council.

So why do we play them before regional/local sporting events?

hockey-canada-national-anthem

(Photo by Jana Chytilova/NHLI via Getty Images)

I love my country. I like my national anthem. I really don’t care if we play it at sporting events.

Walking with Pride

Sister Twisted, who invited me to walk with her group. (Credit: Toronto Star)

Sister Twisted, who invited me to walk with her group. (Credit: Toronto Star)

Well that was different. Just spent several hours in a misty rain wandering the streets of downtown Toronto, waving at colourful people on the sidewalk while screaming my head off.

Welcome to Pride 2015 in Toronto, folks.

What's a religious theme without my beloved Toronto Marlies?

What’s a religious theme without my beloved Toronto Marlies?

While I have always been a strong supporter of human rights in all forms, I have generally avoided Pride Week in Toronto simply because I don’t like crowds. But this year was different.

This year, I was invited to participate in the parade itself by my friends The Toronto Sisters of JOY (Jubilant Order of York), a group of amazingly loving, life-affirming people who seem to work from the premise that to be heard, you must be seen (my words, not theirs).

The Sisters pose with their banner

The Sisters pose with their banner

How could I say no? Hell, why would I say no?

So, early this morning, I pulled together a costume of sorts (not my forte) and headed downtown to meet with the Sisters and some of their other disciples, and into the parade we went (news video).

Two Sisters plan the next few hours

Two Sisters plan the next few hours

Well, into the court yard to meet, then into the parade to wander like the 12 tribes to search for our place in the parade, to wait in the drizzle to walk a few blocks and wait some more and then past the float until… well, you get the idea.

But once the parade started, it was so much fun. Never have I ever felt surrounded by so much love. Every colour and every letter in the alphabet came out to show their support of just LOVE and FRIENDSHIP. It was amazing.

I am Canadian, too.

I am Canadian, too.

Everyone shouted their support.

Everyone shouted their support.

Drizzly day in Toronto didn't dampen spirits

Drizzly day in Toronto didn’t dampen spirits

And when the parade finally ended, I was ready to keep walking…instead, I went to Fran’s Diner for a late lunch.

I am proud to call myself a friend of The Toronto Sisters and of several communities of people whose only requirement for entry is acceptance. That’s pretty cool.

You’ll see the Sisters a couple of times in this video of Saturday’s TransMarch (language).

I also recommend learning more about the You Can Play Project, which promotes inclusiveness in sport.

Canada Day relaxations

Thank goodness the Fathers of Confederation picked July 1 as the day to form the Dominion of Canada.

The thought of possibly celebrating on something like February 3 literally sends shivers down my spine and would have kept me from getting any pictures of people just relaxing on the warm summer’s day.

Pride Week

The last week of June each year, the City of Toronto explodes with colour and excitement as the fever of inclusion takes over the city. It’s another Pride Week.

Gay, straight, budgie…whatever you consider yourself, if you haven’t experienced the pageantry of Toronto Pride Week, you should consider your life cheapened. You should then get your butt to Toronto and party.

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Following on the success of Pride Week, however, the other Deadly Sins have petitioned for their own festivals.

Greed Week is slated to run over two weeks and its organizers are actively petitioning for a third.

Wrath Week got pissed at everyone and so plans to do its own thing.

Planning for Envy Week has been difficult as organizers keep asking for the date to be moved because they feel the other Sins got better dates.

Lust Week started slow and gentle but really built up a head of steam before petering out.

Avarice Week demanded the largest budget and still refused to control its expenses.

Sadly, Sloth Week just never really took off.

(Note: Photo is property of Pride Toronto and is used without permission.)