20+ facts about our national anthem O Canada

If you grew up in Canada, you may recall standing in your classroom in the morning and singing our national anthem, O Canada. If not, as a grown-up you hear it being belted out at sports games or sombrely played at Remembrance Day ceremonies. Either way, you have admit, it can brings tears to your eyes and a lump in your throat.

As Canadians, we typically stand tall and proud whenever we hear the recognizable tune. Like our country, our national theme song has a history.

Here are 20 facts that maybe you may not know about our national anthem:

1. The song was originally commissioned by Lieutenant Governor of Quebec Théodore Robitaille for the 1880 Saint-Jean Baptiste Day ceremony. The music was composed by Calixa Lavallée, with the words written by poet and judge, Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier.

Lieutenant Governor of Quebec Théodore Robitaille

2. The lyrics were originally written in French, with an English translation published in 1906.

3. In 1908, Robert Stanley Weir’s English version gained the most popularity, serving as the basis for the official lyrics enacted by Parliament.

4. Since 1908, the English version has undergone some revisions three times. Most recently, this year when An Act to amend the National Anthem Act fought to have the lyrics become more gender neutral.

5. Although the English version has undergone some revisions, the French version remains unchanged.

6. O Canada officially became the National Anthem on July 1, 1980.

7. A fourth, religious verse was added in 1926.

8. The Maple Leaf Forever was also an unofficial anthem for Canada.

9. Before O Canada became the official national anthem, the official national anthem was God Save the Queen. God Save the Queen remains the Royal Anthem of Canada.

10. The English version and the French translation are entirely different.

French Version Translated:

O Canada!
Land of our ancestors
Glorious deeds circle your brow
For your arm knows how to wield the sword
Your arm knows how to carry the cross;
Your history is an epic of brilliant deeds
And your valour steeped in faith
Will protect our homes and our rights,
Will protect our homes and our rights.

English: O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us 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.

11. Many Canadian artists have given their own renditions of the anthem over the years. Such as Sarah McLachlan, Walk Off the Earth, Anne Murray, Jann Arden, Alanis Morrissette, Celine Dion, and more.

12. The music for O Canada was written before the lyrics were written.

13. When the lyrics were written for O Canada, it was never intended to be translated to English. It was intended to be a French anthem.

14. Canada went a century with having no official anthem.

15. The original name for O Canada was to be Chant National.

16. In January 2018, Canada’s Senate passed a bill to have the lyrics changed from “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command.”

17. In 1908, the magazine, Colliers, ran a contest to challenge Canadians to write the lyrics for the National Anthem. A winner was chosen, but the lyrics never stuck.

18. In 1970, the Queen in Right of Canada purchased the rights for the music and lyrics of O Canada from Gordon V. Thompson Music for a dollar, officially becoming the national anthem with the passage of the National Anthem Act.

19. The very first version of O Canada was sung on June 24, 1880.

20. O Canada was written in Quebec.

21. In 1980, the National Anthem Act decided the music and lyrics of O Canada would stay in the public domain. O Canada has no copyright.

22. O Canada bears a similar resemblance to the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart “March of the Priests” from the opera The Magic Flute, which was composed in 1791.


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Miranda Brumwell

Miranda attended Niagara College in 2014, completing the two-year Journalism program. She currently resides in London, ON with her boyfriend and baby boy. In her spare time, Miranda enjoys reading, cooking, photography, watercolour painting and spending time with family and friends.

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