Update to O Canada Story

by | July 12, 2014

Just over a week ago, I posted a story about how 9 year old Selaena had sung her version of O Canada that replaced “God” with “please”, on Canada Day and in so doing experienced an unexpected backlash from believers. There were a lot of passionate responses to the article both on this site, on the Canadian Atheist Facebook page and on the Cactus, Cattle and Cowboys Festival Facebook page. Clearly, this is an issue that is important to atheists and it was great to see many reasoned and well articulated arguments from the atheist side. I hope our words helped Christians see things from a different perspective.

Selaena’s dad, Austin participated in many of those discussions and this is what he has to say about the whole thing, as posted on his own Facebook page:

Some clarity:

The folks at the Cactus, Cattle and Cowboys Festival to be held on July 12th at the Rodney Fairgrounds are not to blame for the recent events involving my daughter. I used some choice words when her opportunity to sing the National Anthem was taken away, and I shouldn’t have. I realize that many people are offended by the removal of the word ‘god’ from the anthem, but they too must realize that in our multicultural society, the millions of Canadians that do not recognize any god or gods are equally offended by its inclusion. It was for this reason alone that my children have always sung the anthem this way – my daughter didn’t think she was doing anything that would be considered wrong. This will be my fight to have with the government, and has nothing to do with my daughter nor the CCC Festival.

While I may not agree with the decisions that were made (including some of my own) I would like my friends to know that the CCC is not to blame. It is a wonderful event that provides many benefits to our small community. As such I don’t want any negativity held against them as a result of what transpired against my daughter.

I have hopes that in the future we will have people strong enough to stand with me in ensuring our country remains multicultural and diverse, exhibiting no bias toward any majority, minority or otherwise.


Please keep our land glorious and free. Thank you.

I hope those in the area enjoy the festival! I thought the level of discourse was fairly polite as I’ve seen much worse when atheists and Christians come together. Stay classy, fellow atheists and keep engaging those with opposing viewpoints.

21 thoughts on “Update to O Canada Story

  1. Corwin

    I appreciate Austin’s conciliatory instincts, but surely the organisers of the Festival are indeed “to blame” for the cancellation of Selaena’s appearance regardless of how much pressure they were under from the god squad. They must have been the ones who actually decided not to have her sing the anthem. Also, the insinuation that godlessness is a result of multiculturalism seems inaccurate and unhelpful. Disbelief in deities is a metaphysical opinion, not a cultural quirk.

    However, I’m happy to join you and Austin in wishing the CCC festival all the best. A spat over one word in the national anthem shouldn’t be allowed to spoil what sounds like a fun community event, and I’m honestly not that thrilled with sticking “please” in there anyway. I think we should either leave the line in question alone, in the name of tradition, or give it a slightly more radical overhaul.

    1. Veronica Abbass

      Tradition!! Tradition has a bad name: feet binding and slave owning to name two. Tradition is never an argument for keeping anything.

      1. Corwin

        I think tradition represents a worthwhile kind of inertia. If we’re going to change some long-established practice, we should have a compelling reason, not just a casual preference. The case against foot binding was pretty strong, in my opinion.

        I think simply replacing “God” with “please” in our national anthem makes the line sound like a public service announcement. “Please keep off the grass”… “please keep our national parks tidy”… “please keep our land glorious and free”… I’m sure we could do a lot better, and tradition is not a bad reason to keep the current version of the anthem until that superior alternative materialises.

        1. Kevin Usher

          I think asking millions of Canadians to violate their conscience is a pretty good reason.
          Your argument seems to be “we shouldnt change a tradition, because its tradition”.
          Asking Canadians to “please keep our land” is far better than asking a non-existent diety to do it. “Nobody keep our land” is what that amounts to.

          1. Corwin

            I don’t have much sympathy for those millions of Canadians, if their precious consciences are so delicate that having the word “God” in the anthem counts as some sort of violation.

            Even to most people who actually believe in Christianity, exhorting God to bring about X is partly – if not mostly – just a pious way of expressing hope that X will happen. Atheists ought to be able to take “God keep our land glorious and free” to mean “Let’s hope our land remains glorious and free”, just as we recognise that our hearts don’t literally glow with national pride.

            I don’t object to changing the line, but the replacement had better be good enough to make the exercise worthwhile. Indi’s suggestion of substituting “We’ll” for “God” is not bad, but my own preference would be to just pack in a couple more adjectives that could apply to Canada and its people – something like “Steadfast and true, glorious and free”.

          2. Bubba Kincaid

            And I don’t have much sympathy for those millions of Canadians, if their precious consciences are so delicate that letting a little girl do with the anthem, which belongs to her and is her right to do with as she pleases counts as some sort of violation.

          3. Corwin

            Oh, I agree. You might remember that my initial reaction to this whole kerfuffle was to accuse the festival of throwing a bit of a hissy-fit when it cancelled her appearance. That reaction seemed excessive, and so does rhetoric about consciences being violated by either the presence or the absence of a bit of theistic language in our national anthem.

          4. Bubba Kincaid

            even less so when the girl is clearly exercising her expression of good conscience.

            I don’t believe in states built upon the production of chauvinistic automatons. Unfortunately, Canada still suffers from some old colonial habits.

          5. John Perkins

            When Winston Churchill was The First Lord of the Admiralty, way back when,he was asked a question in The House of Commons about tradition in The Royal Navy. Huffing and puffing he replied that the only naval traditions that he was aware of were rum,buggery and the lash !

          6. Indi

            When Winston Churchill was The First Lord of the Admiralty, way back when,he was asked a question in The House of Commons about tradition in The Royal Navy. Huffing and puffing he replied that the only naval traditions that he was aware of were rum,buggery and the lash !

            Actually, the original quote was “rum, sodomy, prayers, and the lash”.

            Not that it really matters, because the quote is a myth.

  2. Dennis Tylee

    When singing our anthem, I use the line “Our people keep our land glorious and free”. I’ve received a few questions from friends about it, and when I explain why I use that line most of them don’t seem to have any objection. I have actually had a theist friend agree with me, he understood that using the word “god” in the anthem was non-inclusive and that not everybody in Canada believes in that same christian god….and now he sings the anthem my way too!

      1. Indi

        I like “we’ll”, making it sound more like an intention or a promise, rather than a boast (which is arguably not always true).

  3. Bubba Kincaid

    poor guy obviously doesn’t want flaming crosses suddenly appearing on his “small community” front lawn, or the red headed freckled preacher’s son peeing in his daughter’s lunch time fruit punch cup.

  4. Barb Holmes

    I remember when “god keep our land” wasn’t part of the anthem.
    Maybe we should go back to THAT tradition.

    1. Diana MacPherson Post author

      Yes, that is the version I was taught in school & it was a good version!

  5. Veronica Abbass

    [T]he original version of “O Canada” contained no mention of God – [Robert Stanley] Weir’s verse, “O Canada, glorious and free”, was later altered to “God keep our land glorious and free” See http://secularalliance.ca/about/policies/god-and-canadas-national-anthem/

    A coalition of prominent Canadian women are seeking to restore Canada’s English national anthem to its original, gender-neutral intentions. See http://globalnews.ca/news/874437/margaret-atwood-joins-campaign-for-gender-neutral-o-canada/

  6. George Hogan

    I was Born and raised in Scotland and have been a proud citizen for 40 yr but now this right wing fascist government has broken the contract they had with me and has converted my citizenship to that of a second class citizen,and that it can be taken away for any reason they chose. So from my perspective you can stick your anthem, your God, your country, and my citizenship certificate where the sun don’t shine, because I no longer want to be a part of this fascist state.

  7. J.Frajkor

    I have always substituted “Let’s” for god. Works for me.

    Also, the words to the second verse are infinitely better than the first verse! Check them out sometime.


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