Only one way to sing O Canada — learn it

Please respect our country, respect our flag and respect our national anthem.

By George Brown, editor

I don’t know an octave from my elbow.

I sing only in the key of me.

But I do know the words to our national anthem.

And dammit, if you’re going to ask me to stand and sing along to O Canada, then you had better sing the official words to the arrangement that I — and 34 million other Canadians have become accustomed to singing.

I don’t know how many versions of O Canada I heard on Dominion Day — that’s Canada Day for our younger readers— some were pre-recorded instrumentals to which we sang along, others were led by Canadians young and old alike. They all had one thing in common — they were all different.

Being invited to sing O Canada, our national anthem, before the drop of the puck at a hockey game, at the cenotaph on Remembrance Day or at the grand entry of a rodeo is an honour. It’s not your opportunity to lay down an interpretation for YouTube or to bastardize the lyrics because you don’t like them or you can’t get your tongue around them.

Some of those versions would send lyricist Calixa Lavallée spinning in his grave.

Only an Act of Parliament can alter the words and the last time that was done was in 1980 when the present lyrics became official. With a little editing, they were essentially the same lyrics we had sung for more than 75 years.

You might recall the kerfuffle this spring when the prime minister mused that the lyrics should be changed to become gender neutral. He backed off in a hurry; that would have also opened the can of worms about removing the reference to God and no Christian prime minister would want to be involved in that debate.

I remember being at a political meeting in Eckville in 1982 and we all stood to sing the national anthem. Premier Peter Lougheed was booming out the words and when he sang the old “And stand on guard, O Canada, We stand on guard for thee” there wasn’t one of us who had any thought about drowning him out with the new “From far and wide, O Canada, We stand on guard for thee.”

We also heard God Save the Queen a lot last week as Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh were in Canada. God Save the Queen is Canada’s royal anthem, played at special occasions where Her Majesty or the Governor-General is present. Little did I know that there are more verses to that anthem than are traditionally sung — at least by Canadian subjects. I attended the presentation of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medals that MP Dale Johnston hosted in Wetaskiwin in 2002. The program listed all of the verses, including my favourite:

O Lord our God arise


Scatter her enemies 


And make them fall


Confound their politics


Frustrate their knavish tricks


On Thee our hopes we fix


God save us all

Back in Queen Victoria’s day, the words to the second verse were:

From France and Pretender

Great Britain defend her,

Foes let them fall;

From foreign slavery,

Priests and their knavery,

And Popish Reverie,

God save us all.

No doubt about the supremacy of the British monarchy back in those days.

It’s uniquely Canadian that we have more than one “official” version of our national anthem and we get to enjoy it every Saturday from October to June when we watch Hockey Night in Canada. (Don’t get me going on how that theme was hijacked.) Most Canadian men know how to sing the French version, at least phonetically. Roget Doucet in the old Montreal Forum could seamlessly stitch the English and French versions together.

Our national anthem is a song expressing our loyalty and patriotism toward Canada. It’s not a ditty you can personalize or add a new twist to for the new millennium. O Canada is not The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends” and you’re not Joe Cocker. O Canada is not the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic “Proud Mary” and you’re not Ike or Tina Turner.

Please respect our country, respect our flag and respect our national anthem.

Clip this out and stick it in your wallet for future reference:

O Canada

O Canada!

Our home and native land!


True patriot love in all thy sons command.


With glowing hearts we see thee rise,


The True North strong and free!


From far and wide, 
O Canada,

We stand on guard for thee.


God keep our land glorious and free!


O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.


O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Just Posted

Ponoka mayor asks for letter of support from Rimbey town council

Ponoka council plans to withhold education tax

Town will monitor ice thickness

Water in storm pond 17 feet deep

Regional fire chief speaks to council

Number of false alarm calls cause concern

Rimbey New Year’s baby

Rimbey area couple celebrate new baby

UK lawmakers reject Brexit deal in 432-202 vote

House of Commons votes against the deal struck between Britain’s government and the EU

Wetaskiwin ‘Yellow Vest’ protest Jan. 12

Wetaskiwin residents protest Liberal/NDP carbon taxes, failure to support pipelines

Olivia and Liam top list for Alberta baby names in 2018

Premier Rachel Notley announced the top baby names in Alberta in 2018; Loki didn’t make the cut

Edmonton Police charged 236 people with auto theft in 2018

Police states many of the thefts are crimes of opportunity

Official torchbearers for 2019 Canada Winter Games announced

Canada Games officials open time capsule from Grande Prairie Games in 1995

Alberta Health Services, United Nurses of Alberta reach agreement to settle union grievance of nursing staffing shortage

Settlement includes the designation of 11.7 full-time-equivalent Registered Nurse relief positions

Woman’s complaint leads to sexual assault charge against Calgary priest

Malcolm Joe D’Souza, who is 62, has been charged with one count of sexual assault

Saudi teen who was granted asylum in Canada says she’s a lucky one

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun was fleeing abusive family back home

Most Read