Statement on Bill C-210: An Act to Amend the National Anthem Act
“Proposed changes to our national anthem should have been put to Canadians in a referendum”
OTTAWA, February 5, 2018
Last week, “independent” senators used a “guillotine motion” to ram through Bill C-210, changing Canada’s national anthem.
In her speech opposing this motion, Senator Anne Cools explained that a guillotine motion is designed to quash debate and, “is available for the use only of ministers of the Crown. No private member is ever supposed to move a guillotine motion.” Yet the independent senator who moved the motion was certainly not a Minister of the Crown and Bill C-210 was not a government bill – it was a private member’s bill. Furthermore, if the bill had been important to the government, they could have made it a government bill, but chose not to.
This guillotine motion tactic was unmerited and disgraceful; by choosing to use it, the independent senators robbed other senators – including me – of the opportunity to speak. But most of all, they robbed many, many Canadians of their voices. I personally had heard from thousands of Canadians who were opposed to changing the anthem; an informal poll done by my office showed 95% of respondents said they did not support the proposed changes.
“O Canada” was originally penned in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir, and a slightly modified version was used as the official anthem for the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation in 1927. Gradually, after a few more minor changes, this anthem became the most widely-accepted English version and, in 1980, Parliament voted unanimously to make it our official national anthem. The changes proposed by Bill C-210 should have also required unanimous consent, but no such consensus existed.
Many senators were resisting this gender neutral version because Canada’s national anthem belongs to its people, not its politicians. Having failed to find consensus in Parliament, the government should have given Canadians the power to make the decision in a referendum.
– Betty Unger, Alberta Senator