Canada's new prime minster, Justin Trudeau, has been hailed as a feminist leader and made his cabinet the first to have equal numbers of men and women. His Liberal Party controls the House of Commons, and the vote to change the anthem was passed resoundingly. Patty Hadju, the Status of Women minister, said of the move: "I think it’s really important as a very strong symbol of our commitment to gender equality in this country."
The bill was introduced by Mauril Bélanger, who has championed the cause for many years. The bill was tabled once before, in 2010, and it was voted down by the previous Conservative-led government. But the move has gained greater urgency since Bélanger received a diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The disease is terminal.
There are concerns that the Canadian Senate, which usually does pass bills sent to it by the House of Commons, won't get around to the bill before Bélanger passes away.
"O Canada" was composed in 1880, and its original version was in French. The English version is an adaptation, not translation, of the French, and was written decades later. It didn't become the national anthem until 1980. The French version has gender-neutral language.
Lawmakers in the House of Commons stood and sang the anthem in both national languages after the vote passed Wednesday. It wasn't clear whether the English version they sang had the amended clause.