OTTAWA — A handful of Liberal MPs paying tribute to Canada’s newly — if not quite official —gender-neutral national anthem have hit a sour note with the Speaker of the House of Commons.
Mona Fortier, who succeeded the late Mauril Belanger in the riding of Ottawa-Vanier, led a brief singalong prior to question period to celebrate the change to the anthem, which won Senate approval Wednesday night.
Belanger had championed a bill to change “In all thy sons command” to “in all of us command,” but it languished for months in the upper chamber following his death in August 2016 before senators finally broke the logjam.
Fortier cheered the breakthrough in a member’s statement in the Commons today before leading some of her fellow MPs in a chorus of the new lyric.
Speaker Geoff Regan, however, was unimpressed.
He says singing in the House of Commons is forbidden, except on Wednesdays when all MPs begin the legislative day with a rendition of the national anthem.
Fortier, who won a byelection in Ottawa-Vanier last April, said she was “honoured” and “delighted” to watch Belanger’s Bill C-210 win Senate approval late Wednesday. All that is left is for the bill to receive royal assent from the Governor General.
“Our anthem will very soon be gender neutral, promoting Canada’s commitment to the equality of sexes and women’s rights,” she said.
“I’m very proud to stand here today and sing along with all of my honourable colleagues: ‘In all of us command’.”
Regan, however, was having none of it.
“As much as we all appreciate patriotism, I would remind members that we’re not here to sing or chant — except on Wednesdays, of course, when we sing the national anthem,” he said.
“It should be one person at a time. I know members understand that.”
That was nothing, however, compared to the outrage expressed Wednesday by Conservative senators who had used procedural tactics to stall Belanger’s bill for more than a year, only to bitterly accuse their independent counterparts of shutting down debate Wednesday to finally force a vote.
Tory senators showed their displeasure by refusing to take part.
In a statement Wednesday, Sen. Larry Smith, the Opposition leader in the Senate, called the tactics of his rivals “unprecedented” and “illegitimate.”
“We are, by refusing to endorse these actions, putting the Trudeau government on notice that we will now use all legitimate means available to us allowed for under the rules to restore our right and the right of all Senators to debate in the chamber.”