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Speech on Bill C-210 - An Act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender)

Senator Beyak: Honourable senators, I'm pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-210, An Act to amend the National Anthem Act. I'm particularly pleased to speak about this legislation after so many other excellent speeches in this chamber.

On July 1, voices will carry onward to the Prairies and to the land of the midnight sun before settling down past the Rocky Mountains on the Pacific Coast — all singing the praises of our country's past glories and our future hopes together, in English and in French; maybe even in Gaelic or in their own native tongues. Here on Parliament Hill, right outside these windows, hundreds of thousands will wear their red and white, proudly wave our Maple Leaf flag and loudly sing our national anthem to mark the occasion of our one hundred and fiftieth birthday.

I am proud to be part of the deliberations on this legislation and within this honourable chamber. I'm also proud of the level of debate and discussion that has accompanied this particular bill on its legislative journey, especially in the Senate. I want to acknowledge and thank those who have spoken before me, whether you have stood for change or to defend our long-standing beliefs and traditions. I salute you and your contributions.

Sometimes we forget how great a country we are now and how much of an example we are to the rest of the world. This is particularly true today, as we survey the global landscape. Sometimes we only know we are a great country when we hear others tell us. Even our neighbours to the south often cast an envious eye towards our peaceful land.

Honourable senators, I remind you of the words of our other founding Father of Confederation and our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, who said, "Let us be French, let us be English, but most importantly let us be Canadian!" Let us endeavour, as we move forward from here, to live up to those hopes and join together, maintaining our great country's traditions, to mark our national birthday this year, our wonderful one hundred and fiftieth.

I am opposed to this bill and want to amend it today because Canadians were not consulted in any way on their national anthem change. This is not a government bill; it's a private member's bill. If the government wants to change our national anthem, it must go to the people.

The private member's bill was passed in the House compassionately and out of sadness for a dying colleague. While that is touching, it is not the way we make public policy in this country and it is not the way we do our legislation. The Senate provided sober second thought, but we also did not consult widely and there is no reason to bring this to a vote. Whether the bill is passed or not, I wish Canadians to sing our national anthem on Canada's one hundred and fiftieth birthday in the traditional way they have been singing it for decades.

Thank you for your time and consideration, colleagues.