Toronto: Gender, racial diversity part of city’s tech push

Interesting approach that sends a message:

Mayor John Tory says he and other Toronto city officials are less likely to attend tech and innovation events if they feature all-man panels and programming with little ethnic diversity.

Tory made the pledge Thursday at the “Women founders and leaders in technology” event, part of the #MoveTheDial initiative aimed at increasing female participation and leadership in Canadian tech.

“Our city is home to a diverse array of talent that must be represented in the events and programming we put on for each other and for the world. . . ,” Tory said. “Diversity and inclusion are a huge part of our value proposition and I will be supporting and championing those events that help build that reputation at home and globally.”

In written responses to the Star after the event, Tory said he, his “advocate for the innovation economy” Councillor Michelle Holland, economic development chair Councillor Michael Thompson and others at the city will “prioritize” the many events they attend based on the gender and ethnic balance of people being presented.

He said he came up with the idea himself after observing many such events and speaking with people including Jodi Kovitz, founder of #MoveTheDial who was part of his trade delegation last fall to Israel.

“Many rooms contain almost all men in large crowds,” Tory said. “We will try to look at diversity overall in our selection of events with an emphasis on gender since that seems to be the bigger challenge.

“By doing this we are asking everyone to be intentional about the public face we put on our events and our conversations about tech. Our city is diverse and that should be reflected.”

California’s Silicon Valley in particular has been criticized for a “tech bro” culture populated by male, mostly white coders who, when they strike it rich, invest in other startups run by people who look mostly like them.

Source: Gender, racial diversity part of city’s tech push | Toronto Star

When equality feels like discrimination: Nightingale

Great piece by Johnathan Nightingale on the lack of merit in merit arguments:

You can’t run a modern business with a mindset from the Dark Ages.

The idea that there is a war against merit feels like one plucked out of time, full of arguments that have been obliterated for decades. But the unfortunate truth is that many leaders in business today still cling to the same dated ideas. Are you one of them? If you find yourself agreeing that there is such a thing as “reverse discrimination,” understand that you –  and your business –  are at risk of becoming obsolete.

There are no meritocracies

Merit is a funny thing. We all like the sound of a meritocracy. It ought to be the case that a person succeeds based on their hard work, evaluated fairly. There was a time when I believed in it myself.

But your business is made of people, and people are never objective. We do such a bad job of judging merit that we don’t even see our own mistakes. We score the merit of a résumé differently based on how white the name sounds. We assess the merit of computer code differently when we know a woman wrote it. Professional symphony musicians can’t even hear music objectively when they know who’s playing.

Does merit explain your own company’s gender or racial distribution? Are you sure? Bias is like a leaky pipe. It’s tempting to ignore it, and scary to wonder how much damage it’s doing. But eventually you have to confront it, otherwise it can bring your whole house down. Once you start to recognize that we’re all fallible on this stuff, instead of pretending it doesn’t happen, you can start to make repairs.

The ability to see bias is a skill that you can develop. It’s an incredible tool for improving your business, and will allow you to see opportunities everywhere. Some solutions are clear, like using blind résumé screens to avoid up-front biases in hiring. Some take more work to see, and some require creative thinking to undo. But if you’re paying attention  –  if you get curious about where your business has bias leaks  –  you’ll race ahead of the people still crowing about their commitment to meritocracy.

Equality can feel like discrimination

Many business leaders also push back against equality efforts by labelling them “reverse discrimination.” It’s easy to understand why. A program that takes opportunities away from men by imposing a quota of women to be hired sure feels discriminatory.

It’s a silly argument. In science, tech, and business, men have maintained the advantaged position for generations. (White men in particular, and straight white men most particularly.) If we are all interested in building fairer and more just companies, and a better world, we’re going to need to get everyone else caught up. That’s not discrimination, that’s moving towards equality. But equality feels very different when it means giving up an unfair advantage.

In your own company, as Saadia Muzaffar says, “Ask yourself who’s not at the table.” If you can’t stomach the idea of quotas and preferential hiring, can you at least start by looking for representation? Ask yourself where you are missing perspective because of gaps in your hiring and act to fix it. And no, you don’t get to blame a lack of applicants.

Modern employees demand modern employers

Tech is a young industry, and that means we’re often the first to see new employment trends emerge. What we’re seeing right now is a generation of employees who care deeply about the values of the companies they work for. They expect transparency and accountability from their leaders in a way that feels new. They are digital natives, educated and connected. They are very able to walk away when they sense that their employer doesn’t get it.

This is a thing you can either fear or embrace. If you don’t know how to build a more equitable workplace, the onus is on you to get educated first. Once you start taking those steps, you’ll find that this is a generation that understands and respects that work. Don’t ask them to do it for you  –  change in the equality of your company needs to come from the top  –  but they will stick with you and work hard for you when they believe that your efforts are sincere.

It’s tempting, when there are so many frustrations involved in trying to build your business, to see equality work as yet another pain in the behind. I get that. It can be comfortable to roll your eyes at it as more runaway political correctness. But it’s a trap. It stops you from doing the hard work required to understand your own biases, confront them, and be better.

The next time you hear yourself saying “I support diversity, but ….” Pause for a moment. Ask why you’re taking that position, and what fear or discomfort is behind it. And then ask yourself how much better your world would be if you dropped the “but.”

Source: When equality feels like discrimination – The Globe and Mail

The Universal Phenomenon of Men Interrupting Women – The New York Times

Less of an issue in government now given the high percentage of women (about 40 percent) at the DM and ADM level? Comments appreciated!

For women in business and beyond, it was an I-told-you-so day.

The twin spectacles Tuesday — an Uber board member’s wisecrackabout women talking too much, and Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, being interrupted for the second time in a week by her male colleagues — triggered an outpouring of recognition and what has become almost ritual social-media outrage.

Academic studies and countless anecdotes make it clear that being interrupted, talked over, shut down or penalized for speaking out is nearly a universal experience for women when they are outnumbered by men.

A few statistics show that the questions directed at Uber about how women fare in the workplace extend beyond one company, and indeed beyond Silicon Valley. Women make up 6.4 percent of Fortune 500 chief executive officers and 19.4 percent of Congress this year. About a fifth of board members in Fortune 500 companies in 2016 were women, according to research conducted by Deloitte and the Alliance for Board Diversity.

After Arianna Huffington, an Uber director, spoke of how important it was to increase the number of women on the board, David Bondermansaid that would mean more talking. He soon resigned from the board. Even in companies without notorious bro-cultures, however, women have had to struggle to feel heard and, as the numbers make clear, to advance to the top.

“I think every woman who has any degree of power and those who don’t knows how it feels to experience what Kamala Harris experienced yesterday,” said Laura R. Walker, the president and chief executive of New York Public Radio. “To be in a situation where you’re trying to do your job and you’re either cut off or ignored.”

Senator Harris, a former prosecutor, assertively questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, interrupted and chided her to let Mr. Sessions answer her questions. Soon after that, Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina and the committee chairman, cut her off, saying her time had elapsed.

…A ream of studies affirm such anecdotes. Researchers consistently find that women are interrupted more and that men dominate conversations and decision-making, in corporate offices, town meetings, school boards and the United States Senate.

Victoria L. Brescoll, associate professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, published a paper in 2012 showing that men with power talked more in the Senate, which was not the case for women. Another study, “Can an Angry Woman Get Ahead?” concluded that men who became angry were rewarded, but that angry women were seen as incompetent and unworthy of power in the workplace.

“The fact that women are outnumbered in every room puts them in a position where they’re often coming up against gender-based stereotypes,” said Deborah Gillis, president and chief executive of Catalyst, which works for women’s advancement in business. “Women are too hard, too soft, but never just right. What that means is that women are seen as either competent or liked but not both.”

Some women are working to subvert these gender imbalances in their own organizations.

Ms. Walker, of New York Public Radio, said she pressed for more women at its senior level and on its board. “I think this not only empowers women throughout our organization, it also makes for better discussions,” she said. She is also pushing to increase the number of women who host podcasts.

Jacqueline Hinman, chairman and C.E.O. of CH2M Hill Companies, a Colorado-based engineering company that manages projects including light rail in Toronto and Olympic facilities in London, works in a field where women have typically been scarce. Now, however, women make up 30 to 40 percent of her board and are well represented in senior positions.

“Men who come to our companies from competitors are astounded by the number of women everywhere,’’ she said, adding, “They love it.”

It took years of work to get to that point, Ms. Hinman said — and part of the push came from clients, increasingly women, who wanted to see diverse engineering teams. She said she made it clear to subordinates they will be judged partly on how many women and minorities they advance.

SCOTUS strikes down citizenship law –

Surprising it took this long for a case to test the discrimination:

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal law that treats children born overseas to unmarried parents differently for purposes of citizenship depending upon whether the biological father or mother is a US citizen.

Under the law, US citizen fathers have to spend at least five years in the states before the child could become a citizen, while the mother only had to spend one year.
The plaintiff in the case, Luis Ramon Morales-Santana, was born in 1962 in the Dominican Republic to unmarried parents. His mother was a citizen of the Dominican Republic and his father was a US citizen who had not spent more than five years in the United States after his 14th birthday.
Morales-Santana was admitted to the US as a lawful permanent resident in 1975. After years of living in the US he was put in removal proceedings after convictions for various felonies. He claimed he was a US citizen because of his father’s citizenship. But the Board of Immigration Appeals denied the claim because the father had not satisfied the physical presence requirements.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dedicated her career to the issue of gender discrimination before taking the bench, wrote the decision.
The section of the 1952 Nationality Act, she wrote, could not “withstand inspection under a Constitution that requires the government to respect the equal dignity and stature of its male and female citizens.”
But while the law “violates the equal-protection principles,” the court also said it is “not equipped” to grant the relief that Morales-Santana seeks — striking down the law and grant him citizenship. Congress would have to make that determination, Ginsburg wrote.
Under the Immigration and Nationality act of 1952 as originally written, a child born outside of the United States to an unwed citizen father and a non-citizen mother has citizenship at birth only if the father was present in the United States for a period totaling at least 10 years, with at least five of those years occurring after the age of 14. But the statute has since been amendedto decrease the time requirement for those born since November 14, 1986, to 5 years in the United States, at least two of which were after age of 14. A child born abroad to an unwed citizen mother has citizenship if the mother lived in the United States for at least one year at some point prior to the child’s birth.

Source: SCOTUS strikes down citizenship law –

Trump, Trudeau and the patriarchy: Adams

Another interesting piece by Michael Adams on the contrast between the US and Canada:

As icons of masculinity, it would be hard to find a more vivid contrast than that between U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. One is a macho bully who demands deference, the other a people-pleasing metrosexual. These men are not one-of-a-kind phenomena but very much expressions of the societies that produced them.

This is the obvious conclusion from an analysis of the evolving social values in each country Environics has been conducting every four years since 1992.

In order to understand the orientation to the structure of authority in the family in each country, we periodically ask representative samples of people 15 and older if they agree or disagree with the statement: “The father of the family must be master in his own house.”

In 2016, 50 per cent of the 8,000-plus Americans surveyed agreed with the statement. In Canada, the equivalent proportion (with a sample of 4,000-plus) was 23 per cent.

When we first asked this question in 1992, the proportion in the United States agreeing was 42 per cent. It rose to 44 per cent in 1996, and to 48 per cent in 2000. It remained at that level throughout the post-9/11 George W. Bush years and then declined somewhat during the Barack Obama era, to 41 per cent in 2012.

However, as U.S. Republicans and Democrats were in the process of selecting Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton as their respective presidential candidates, the proportion returned to its historic high.

It will surprise no one that support for Mr. Trump is highly correlated with support for patriarchy and, conversely, support for gender equality is highly correlated with support for Ms. Clinton.

Meanwhile in Canada, the proportion of patriarchy supporters has been hovering in the low 20s throughout the past two decades. This is in spite of the inflows of migrants from more male-dominated countries (35 per cent of foreign-born Canadians believe dad should be on top), as well as a mild backlash against feminism among Generation X men at the ages of 25 to 44 (foreign-born and Canadian-born alike). In the United States, 56 per cent of immigrants opt for patriarchy in the home.

There was a time when informed Canadians felt the values of the two countries were converging, or that any observed differences in average opinion in the two societies were simply the result of the South pulling the U.S. number in a conservative direction and Quebec pulling Canada the other way. When it comes to this measure of patriarchy, neither generalization stands up to the evidence. Yes, in the United States, there is substantial regional variation. In the Deep South (Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi), 69 per cent believe the father must be master chez lui, whereas in New England, the figure is only 42 per cent; other regions fall in-between. In Canada, the range is from a high of 26 per cent in Alberta (birthplace of former Republican contender Ted Cruz) to a low of 18 per cent in Atlantic Canada. Canada’s most patriarchal province is significantly less patriarchal than the least patriarchal region of the United States. So much for the theory that nations don’t have national values.

Digging deeper into the demographics, we see some telling patterns: 60 per cent of American men think father should be master at home compared with 41 per cent of American women. In Canada, only 31 per cent of men think dad should be boss, compared with 16 per cent of women. Presumably some of these people live in the same house; must be interesting.

There is little variation by age in either country, or by income, occupational status or community size (rural to urban). In Canada, there is not much difference by education either – but in the United States education matters a lot: 56 per cent of people with a high-school education or less think father should be boss; among those with postsecondary degrees, it is 39 per cent.

Consensus in Canada; some substantial variations in the United States. Patriarchy is only one of more than 50 values we track, but it is clearly among the most meaningful. It is also a value that is highly correlated with other values such as religiosity, parochialism and xenophobia, and views on issues such as abortion, guns and the death penalty.

In 2002, EKOS asked Canadians if Canada was becoming more like the United States or less like it. At that time, 58 per cent said we were becoming more like the United States and only 9 per cent thought we were becoming less like our American cousins. A few weeks ago, we repeated this question in a national survey and found a change of opinion: Only 27 per cent think Canada is becoming more like the United States and a nearly equal proportion (26 per cent) say we are in fact becoming less like our southern neighbour. Perhaps the latter group read The Globe and Mail.

Source: Trump, Trudeau and the patriarchy – The Globe and Mail

Canadian passport will have new marker for transgender travellers, justice minister says

As expected and good that this is being done government-wide to ensure consistency:

Transgender travellers will soon have another option to tick off on their passport other than “male” or “female.”

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the government is working to update its gender identity policies right across federal departments, and they will include a revamped travel document.

“The prime minister is very mindful of perhaps a third box or an ability to mark something other than male or female. This work is being undertaken at Passport Canada,” she said. “Individual ministers and (people) within their departments are recognizing that this bill has been introduced, that there is work that needs to continue to be taken.”

Wilson-Raybould was testifying before the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee, which is studying government legislation to protect the human rights and security of Canadians based on gender identity and gender expression.

She said the government has much work to do to ensure its own policies accord with the intent of C-16, including a recognition that “simply ticking a box of male or female” doesn’t comply.

A sex field is mandatory for travel documents under International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules. ICAO allows one of three markers: F for female, M for male or X for “unspecified.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has already removed a requirement for proof of sex reassignment surgery for persons requesting to change the sex marker on IRCC documents, and the department is taking further steps to change the sex marker on travel documents, citizenship certificates and documentation for temporary and permanent residents, according to a government official.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to make all government-issued documents more reflective of gender diversity.

Seven countries have issued identification documents, such as a passport, with a third-sex designation.

‘Where does that end?’

But Conservative Senator Don Plett said changing the passport could have implications on international travel.

“When you start putting other boxes in, where does that end? How many boxes are we going to put in? I don’t think it’s a workable solution,” he said.

Bill C-16 would update the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, making it illegal to discriminate based on gender identity or expression and extending hate speech laws to include the two terms. Under the legislation, judges would also consider it an aggravating factor in sentencing when someone has been targeted for a hate crime based on gender identity or expression.

Wilson-Raybould said the protections are “long overdue” to end discrimination, lift barriers to employment and fill an important gap in the Criminal Code.

The bill has been praised by human rights and transgender advocates, but some senators on the committee raised concerns that there is no definition of the term, leaving it too vague for clear interpretation. Plett said the word “gender expression” could refer to what a person wears or how they comb their hair.

He asked what would happen if a person simply does not recognize more than two genders.

Personal pronouns

“For personal, scientific or faith-based reasons, do you believe they should have to refer to a person by a personal pronoun and should failure to do so constitute discrimination?” he asked.

Wilson-Raybould said Canadians should rest assured the bill will not infringe on freedom of expression, or compel anyone to refer to an individual by a certain personal pronoun.

Source: Canadian passport will have new marker for transgender travellers, justice minister says – Politics – CBC News

Cultural sensitivities must never override gender equality: Khan

Another good piece by Sheema Khan:

While these attitudes have been ingrained for centuries elsewhere, one would think that migrating to a land where gender equality is emphasized would lead to a change of heart. Apparently, more needs to be done to uproot customs that have been transplanted here. Efforts must come from both within and without affected communities.

We need honest public conversations about these difficult topics. Multicultural sensitivities should never override gender equality, nor should they censor the expression of strong opinions. Let it be said: Both sets of cultural practices are, well, barbaric. They have no place here (or in fact, anywhere). Not only are they “un-Canadian,” they are inhuman.

Government policy is also a necessary tool to combat discriminatory practices.

While Canada has legislation against the practice of FGM, there are no laws that prosecute parents who send their daughters abroad to have the procedure done. In contrast, France and the United States have outlawed “FGM tourism.” It is time for Canada to follow their lead.

And while Ottawa has moved to address FGM, our governments have failed to address female feticide. They ignored the call by Dr. Rajendra Kale, in 2012, to ban disclosure of the sex of a fetus until 30 weeks (after which point an abortion is difficult). South Korea banned such disclosures in 1988, helping to reverse gender imbalance.

Finally, there can be no change unless there is opposition within communities. There will be pressure to circle the wagons in wake of negative media coverage. I still remember an Ottawa community leader telling a local congregation, following the “honour killing” of Aqsa Parvez, that the media were trying to make the Muslim community look “bad.” Outrage was not directed at family violence, but at the media for covering that violence.

Today, many courageous Bohra women who underwent khatna (i.e. FGM) in their childhood, are speaking out against the practice, directing their personal pain toward addressing social justice. They risk ostracization from their own families and excommunication from their faith community.

Who, on the other hand, will speak up for the 4,500 “missing” girls in the Indo-Canadian community, so that female feticide will cease? To the women who abort their daughters: you were not subject to sex-selective abortion – why, then, inflict it on Your daughter-to-be? There will need to be many painful conversations about the central moral issue: aborting a fetus simply because it is female.

Minority communities are in a difficult spot, especially with anti-immigrant sentiment on the rise. However, failing to address harmful cultural practices unequivocally, allows problems to fester and, ultimately, cause even more damage.

Source: Cultural sensitivities must never override gender equality – The Globe and Mail

Study finds gender imbalance in children born to Indo-Canadian women

Important and disturbing study.

It would be interesting to know if second-generation Indo-Canadians continue this practice or not and I understand the researchers are planning to do just that:

Fewer girls than boys are born to Indian women who immigrate to Canada, a skewed pattern driven by families whose mother tongue is Punjabi, according to a new study.

One of the most surprising findings of the study, to be published Monday in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada, is that the preference for boys does not diminish, regardless of how long women from India have lived in Canada.

“It’s counterintuitive,” said Marcelo Urquia, a research scientist at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Health Policy and lead author of the study. “We know that the longer immigrants are in Canada, the more likely they are to align to the host country.”

But for many Indian immigrants who express a strong desire for sons, the study found, the practice of sex selection remains entrenched. Women who already have two female children are most at risk for abortions in the second trimester, when parents can learn the sex of the fetus. The study builds on previous research led by Dr. Urquia that found a deficit in Canada of more than 4,400 girls over two decades.

The latest study shows that women born in India who already have two daughters gave birth to 192 baby boys in Ontario for every 100 girls. The sex ratios are so distorted, they cannot be explained by natural causes, Dr. Urquia said. Across the globe, by comparison, the odds of having a boy over a girl are slightly higher: 107 boys for every 100 girls.

The preference for boys among many Indian immigrants reveals underlying gender inequities and will not change without intervention, Dr. Urquia said.

Amanpreet Brar, a third-year medical student at the University of Toronto who worked on the study, said gender-selection abortion was talked about openly in India’s Punjab province, where she grew up, but she was surprised to learn that it also happens in Canada.

Ms. Brar, who immigrated to Canada with her family when she was 14, remembers the traditional celebration called a Lohri in India for celebrating the birth of a boy.

“It was rare to hear about a girl’s birth being celebrated,” she said.

But some steps have been taken in Canada to end gender-based customs and celebrate the birth of girls. In Brampton, Ont., where 40 per cent of the population is South Asian, one hospital has started handing out Ladoos, a sugary Indian sweet, when a baby girl is born, Ms. Brar said. Traditionally in India, Ladoos were just for moms who delivered boys.

The study analyzed 46,834 birth records for Indian-born mothers who delivered up to three live births in Ontario hospitals between April, 1993, and March, 2014, and who immigrated to Canada between 1985 and 2012. Mothers who gave birth to twins or triplets were excluded. The study also looked at the mother’s birth place, her mother tongue and how long she had been in Canada.

Among all the mothers having their third child, nearly twice as many males were born compared with females if the previous two children were girls. The ratio was even higher among women whose mother tongue was Punjabi: 240 boys to 100 girls. The ratio of males to females did not differ according to when women arrived in Canada.

Source: Study finds gender imbalance in children born to Indo-Canadian women – The Globe and Mail

A black woman in tech makes $79,000 for every $100,000 a white man makes – Recode

Impressive large-scale data analysis that show the extent of bias in the hiring process:

It’s no secret that the technology field can be brutal to anyone who isn’t a white male. New data shows just how those inequalities play out in today’s tech workers’ paychecks.

Nearly two in three women receive lower salary offers than men for the same job at the same company, according to Hired, a job website that focuses on placing people in tech jobs such as software engineer, product manager or data scientist. That’s slightly better than last year, when 69 percent of women received lower offers.

Women, on average, were paid 4 percent less than men for the same kind of job, the study found.

For the study, Hired mined data from 120,000 salary offers to 27,000 candidates at 4,000 companies. In general, applicants to these tech fields skew male (75 percent), but that doesn’t account for the disparity in who gets interviewed.

Companies interviewed only men for a position 53 percent of the time; 6 percent of the time, they interviewed only women.

“Not only are women getting lower offers when they actually get offers, but a large amount of time, companies have openings and they’re not interviewing women at all,” said Jessica Kirkpatrick, Hired’s data scientist.

Hired’s data also breaks down offer salaries by race, compared with a white man in the same job. The effects of race are even more dramatic:

  • Black women are offered 79 cents to every dollar offered to a white man.
  • Black men make 88 cents.
  • Latina women make 83 cents.
  • White women make 90 cents.

Additionally, LGBTQ women and men are offered less money than their non-LGBTQ counterparts.

There are numerous reasons for this pay inequity. Part of the problem is that women, minorities and LGBTQ people ask for less than white males for the same position.

According to Kirkpatrick, these groups ask for less because people base their salary expectations on what they’re already making. For these groups, their lower pay often reflects a lot of historical inequities accrued over their careers, like being denied raises or promotions.

By not offering people comparable wages, Kirkpatrick said that companies are jeopardizing their job retention. “When people figure out what their teammates are making, it’s ultimately not good for maintaining talent and creating a collegial environment,” she said.

It also makes Silicon Valley’s already tight talent pool even smaller.

Source: A black woman in tech makes $79,000 for every $100,000 a white man makes – Recode

Senators oppose ‘clunky, pedestrian’ gender-neutral changes to O Canada

I have some sympathy for the arguments of Fraser and MacDonald. Yet another example of the Senate exercising more independence:

Some members of the Senate are determined to stop Parliament from changing the words of the national anthem, with one senator deriding the late Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger‘s proposed amendments to O Canada as “clunky, leaden and pedestrian.”

Liberal Senator Joan Fraser, a self-described “ardent feminist,” said the new phrasing is both grammatically incorrect and a misguided attempt to make the song reflect “today’s values.”

“It’s a fine example of what happens when you let politicians meddle,” she said of Bill C-210 to amend the National Anthem Act. “Politicians are not usually poets.”

Bélanger, who passed away last summer after a battle with ALS, sought to make the anthem gender-neutral by removing the phrase “all thy sons command” and replacing it with “all of us command.”

The bill passed in the House of Commons largely along party lines, with all Liberal and NDP MPs voting in favour of the changes, while most Conservatives opposed. Some notable female Tory MPs, including Michelle Rempel and Lisa Raitt, backed Bélanger’s bill.

Nearly a year later, the bill is now in its last legislative phase — third reading in the Senate — awaiting a final vote.  As per the Senate’s procedural policy, debate on the bill can be continually adjourned by critics, punting a vote on the matter to a later date.

‘Sloppy’ legislation

The bill’s backers, including Liberal MP Greg Fergus, hope to see the bill passed into law in time for Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations on July 1.

While others, including Conservative Nova Scotia Senator Michael MacDonald, have said the “sloppy” legislation should be defeated in its present form because it’s simply an attempt to sanitize a national symbol.

“If we are constantly revising everything because it was written in another generation, our national symbols will have no value. Our history means nothing in this country anymore, and it’s a shame that we’re doing this,” he said in an interview with CBC News. “The Senate should not be reticent in defending and preserving the heritage of Canada.”

Fraser, a journalist and editor appointed by former prime minister Jean Chrétien in 1998, said it is a dangerous precedent to start fiddling with lyrics written by a man long dead.

“If we are to become engrossed in the idea that we must at all times be correctly modern, we lose a part of our heritage,” Fraser said in a recent speech to the Red Chamber. “It may not be a perfect heritage — I’m not suggesting it is — but it is ours. I suggest that it deserves respect and acceptance for what it is: imperfect but our own.”

Fraser said if inclusion is the primary goal, it makes little sense to leave overtly Christian references untouched. Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s government added the words “God keep our land glorious and free” in 1980, she noted, the same year the song officially became the country’s national anthem.

“Make no mistake about it, colleagues: we’re talking about the Christian god here, not just anyone’s god,” she said.

Since 1980, 12 private member’s bills have been introduced in the House to strip the gendered reference to “sons,” which some have argued is discriminatory. All attempts have failed.

“It is something that will make our national anthem more inclusive,” Independent Ontario Senator Frances Lankin said in defence of the bill last month. “This change might be small, but it may very well have a major impact on how the next generation views our evolving history.”

The song itself has been changed many times since the English version was first penned in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir, a judge and poet. Indeed, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, Weir changed the line in question from “thou dost in us command” to “in all thy sons command.”

‘Social justice warrior seal of approval’

MacDonald is vehemently opposed to Bélanger’s wording because he believes the “politically correct” changes were rammed through the House despite little or no public demand for such a modification.

He said the Liberal government used Bélanger, a man who was near death, as a “vehicle” for the changes.

“That’s not the way to use Parliament. Everybody knows the tragedy of his circumstances, a very tragic thing — but, with respect, it’s the government that treated it like the Children’s Wish Foundation,” MacDonald said.

“This is just change for the sake of change, and just catering to a very narrow group of people who want to impose their agenda on everything,” he said. “Leave the anthem alone.”

The Cape Breton senator also takes issue with the bill because it only changes the English-language version of the national anthem, even though the French words would have a hard time getting the “social justice warrior seal of approval.”

“Why should one official version of the anthem be exempt from re-examination?” MacDonald said. “It is, without question, an ethnic French-Canadian, Catholic, nationalist battle hymn, certainly non-inclusive, yet I am not offended. It is just part of Canada’s history in song.”

MacDonald said he has consulted with English and linguistic professors about the wording change, and they agree that the bill’s authors “botched” the language.

“The proper and only acceptable pronoun substitution for the phrase ‘All thy sons command’ is ‘All of our command,'” MacDonald said. “This is not opinion. This is fact.”  (The full text of his speech can be read here.)

Source: Senators oppose ‘clunky, pedestrian’ gender-neutral changes to O Canada – Politics – CBC News