Toronto city councillors are set to discuss a motion next week asking the federal government to make the national anthem gender-inclusive, but they should not expect a ringing endorsement from Mayor Rob Ford.
"Generally speaking, it's a Canadian issue. It's a federal issue. I don't think it should be debated on the last day of council when there are much more important things to do and talk about," Mr. Ford told reporters on Friday at the unveiling of a mural painted by young artists in Rexdale.
Councillor Ceta Ramkhalawansingh will introduce the motion, seconded by Councillor Pam McConnell, to support replacing "thy sons" with "of us" in the lyrics of O Canada. The motion endorses the "Sing All of Us" campaign, launched in Toronto last year and founded in part by former prime minister Kim Campbell and author Margaret Atwood.
The motion is among more than 408 items on a packed agenda for the last council meeting before the municipal election on Oct. 27. Issues up for debate range from a proposed Toronto Raptors training centre at Exhibition Place to fare rates for the new express train from Union Station to Pearson International Airport.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong also said he does not see the importance of city council debating the national anthem and that it is not a "burning issue." "The public believes city councillors need to get to work, and this is not a part of that," he said.
Ms. Ramkhalawansingh, appointed councillor for Trinity-Spadina in July after Adam Vaughan stepped down, maintains that the inclusivity of the national anthem is a matter that concerns Toronto and the rest of Canada. The former manager of diversity management for Toronto also tabled 10 other motions for Monday's council meeting.
"When the English version was first written in 1908, it was gender-inclusive. Even the current French version is gender-inclusive," she said. (The original lyrics said "thou dost in us command" and the words were changed to "in all thy sons command" in 1914.)
Nine private member's bills have been tabled in the House of Commons since 1980 proposing a change to the second line of the English anthem, but none succeeded.
"It is important because of the extent to which people are commenting on it," Ms. Ramkhalawansingh said. "City council sends many requests to the government of Canada, so this would be another one of those requests."