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Heritage Minister Melanie Joly recognizes Catherine Belanger, wife of late MP Mauril Belanger, during a press conference in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Feb. 7, 2018.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Members of Parliament broke into applause Wednesday after singing the new, gender-neutral lyrics to O Canada in the House of Commons, just hours after the change became law.

The new wording became official earlier in the day, capping off a years-long effort to make the anthem more inclusive that was spearheaded by late Liberal MP Mauril Belanger.

It changes the second line of the anthem's English version to "in all of us command" from "in all thy sons command."

Belanger died two years ago after being diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

His widow, Catherine Belanger, was present in the Commons on Wednesday and said that while the road has been long she is overjoyed her husband's dying wish has been fulfilled.

MPs sang the new gender-neutral lyrics to O Canada in the House of Commons on Wednesday, after the change became law. Heritage Minister Melanie Joly says Canadians are already welcoming the revised anthem.

The Canadian Press

"I'm sure that Mauril is smiling down at us," she said. "My granddaughters and I are on Cloud 9."

Canadian athletes in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the Winter Olympics sang the new version while raising the flag Wednesday morning, said Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly.

"Today is a really good day," she said.

"Now, women across this country will be well reflected in their own national anthem."

No extra money has been earmarked to promote the revision, which Joly said will be accomplished through her department's existing budget.

Online materials will be the first to change, and Canadian Heritage will notify schools and other groups to make them aware of the updated wording.

The English version of O Canada has changed multiple times since Montreal lawyer Robert Stanley Weir wrote it in the early 20th century, though not since it became the country's official national anthem in 1980.

The music to O Canada was composed by Calixa Lavallee in 1880, after which Quebec judge Adolphe-Basile Routhier wrote the original French lyrics.