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O Canada is the national anthem of Canadamarker. The song was originally commissioned by the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, the Honourable Théodore Robitaille, for the 1880 St. Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony. Calixa Lavallée wrote the music, which was a setting of a patriotic poem composed by the poet and judge Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. The text was originally only in French, before it was translated to English in 1906.

The English translation of the lyric happened two years before Robert Stanley Weir penned an English version, which is not a translation of the French. Weir's words have been revised twice, taking their present form in 1980, but the French lyrics remain unaltered. "O Canada" was not officially Canada's national anthem until 1980, when it was signed into law on July 1 as part of that year's Dominion Day celebrations.

Official lyrics

The official lyrics in English and French, as well as a translation of the French version and a transcription of Weir's original English-language poem, can be found on the Canadian government website devoted to "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion".

Official (English) Official (French) Inuktitut lyrics
O Canada!

Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all thy sons 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.
Ô Canada!

Terre de nos aïeux,

Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!

Car ton bras sait porter l'épée,

Il sait porter la croix!

Ton histoire est une épopée

Des plus brillants exploits.

Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,

Protégera nos foyers et nos droits

Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
ᐆ ᑲᓇᑕ! ᓇᖕᒥᓂ ᓄᓇᕗᑦ!

ᐱᖁᔭᑏ ᓇᓚᑦᑎᐊᖅᐸᕗᑦ.



ᓇᖏᖅᐳᒍ, ᐆ ᑲᓇᑕ,


ᐆ ᑲᓇᑕ! ᓄᓇᑦᓯᐊ!

ᓇᖏᖅᐳᒍ ᒥᐊᓂᕆᑉᓗᑎ,

ᐆ ᑲᓇᑕ, ᓴᓚᒋᔭᐅᖁᓇ!

Translation of French lyrics Transliteration of Inuktitut lyrics
O Canada!

Land of our forefathers,

Thy brow is wreathed with a glorious garland of flowers.

As in thy arm ready to wield the sword,

So also is it ready to carry the cross.

Thy history is an epic of the most brilliant exploits.

Thy valour steeped in faith

Will protect our homes and our rights

Will protect our homes and our rights.
Uu Kanata! nangmini nunavut!

Piqujatii nalattiaqpavut.



Nangiqpugu, Uu Kanata,


Uu Kanata! nunatsia!

Nangiqpugu mianiripluti,

Uu Kanata, salagijauquna!


The house in Quebec City in which Routhier reportedly wrote the original French lyrics
The original French lyrics were written by Sir Adolphe Basile Routhier, as a French Canadian patriotic song for the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society. The French "Ô Canada" was first performed on June 24, 1880, at a Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day banquet in Quebec Citymarker, but did not become Canada's official national anthem until July 1, 1980. The Canadian government bought the rights to the lyrics and music for only one dollar.

Since 1867, "God Save the King" and "The Maple Leaf Forever" had been competing as unofficial national anthems in Canada. "O Canada" joined that fray when school children sang it for the 1901 tour of Canada by the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (later King George V and Queen Mary). Five years later Whaley and Royce in Torontomarker published the music with the French text and a first translation into English by Dr. Thomas Bedford Richardson. Then, in 1908, Collier's Weekly magazine held a competition to write English lyrics for "O Canada". The competition was won by Mercy E. Powell McCulloch, but her version did not gain wide acceptance. In 1917, Albert Watson wrote the hymn Lord of the Lands to the tune of O Canada.

The English version that gained the widest currency was written in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir, a lawyer and at the time Recorder of the City of Montrealmarker. A slightly modified version of his poem was published in an official form for the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation in 1927, and gradually became the most generally accepted and performed version, winning out over the alternatives by the 1960s. "God Save the Queen" is now Canada's royal anthem, while "The Maple Leaf Forever" is less well-known today.

Many have noted that the opening theme of "O Canada", composed in c. 1880, bears a great resemblance to the "Marsch der Priester" (March of the Priests), from Die Zauberflöte, composed in 1791 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Some say that Mozart's tune inspired Lavallée to compose his melody. The line "The True North strong and free" is based on Alfred Tennyson's description of Canada as "That True North whereof we lately heard". In the context of Tennyson's poem, "true" means "loyal" or "faithful".

Official changes to the English version were recommended in 1968 by a Special Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons. The National Anthem Act of 1980 added a religious reference to the English lyrics and the phrase "From far and wide, O Canada" to replace one of the somewhat tedious repetitions of the phrase "We stand on guard." This change was controversial with traditionalists, and for several years afterwards it was not uncommon to hear people (some by choice, some by memory reflex) still singing the old lyrics at public events. By contrast, the French version has never been changed from its original. In fact, at public events where there may be participants singing both the French and English versions simultaneously, it is common to hear people singing the beginning in French and then switching to the English version, usually three or four lines before the end.

Two provinces have adopted Latin translations of phrases from the English lyrics as their mottos: ManitobaGloriosus et liber (glorious and free)—and AlbertaFortis et liber (strong and free). Similarly, the motto of Canadian Forces Land Force Command is Vigilamus pro te (we stand on guard for thee). In addition, the official website of the Government of Canada uses phrases from both the English and French lyrics as mottos on its page headers—"The true north strong and free" in English and "Une épopée des plus brillants exploits" in French.

Historical refrain

A page from Hymns of the Christian Life, 1962, depicting the original refrain lyrics to O Canada.

The following text was used as the refrain (last three lines of the official version) prior to the official designation as the national anthem:

O Canada, glorious and free,
We stand on guard, we stand on guard for thee!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!

Other lyrics

Weir's poem has three additional stanzas, but these are rarely sung. There is also a hymnal version of the lyrics, written by Albert D. Watson.
O Canada! Where pines and maples grow.

Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow.

How dear to us thy broad domain,

From East to Western sea.

Thou land of hope for all who toil!

Thou True North, strong and free!

God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies

May stalwart sons, and gentle maidens rise,

To keep thee steadfast through the years

From East to Western sea.

Our own beloved native land!

Our True North, strong and free!


Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,

Hold our Dominion in thy loving care;

Help us to find, O God, in thee

A lasting, rich reward,

As waiting for the better Day,

We ever stand on guard.

Lord of the lands, beneath Thy bending skies,

On field and flood, where’er our banner flies,

Thy people lift their hearts to Thee,

Their grateful voices raise:

May our dominion ever be

A temple to Thy praise.

Thy will alone let all enthrone;


Lord of the lands, make Canada Thine own:

Lord of the lands, make Canada Thine own!

Almighty Love, by Thy mysterious power,

In wisdom guide, with faith and freedom dower;

Be ours a nation evermore

That no oppression blights,

Where justice rules from shore to shore,

From lakes to northern lights.

May love alone for wrong atone;


Lord of the worlds, with strong eternal hand,

Hold us in honor, truth and self-command;

The loyal heart, the constant mind,

The courage to be true,

Our wide extending empire bind,

And all the earth renew.

Thy Name be known through every zone;



Singers at public events often mix the English and French lyrics to represent Canada's linguistic duality. For example, one form is singing the first two and last three lines in English; the last two lines could also alternate between English and French. Roger Doucet, the former singer of national anthems at the Montreal Forummarker for the NHL's Montreal Canadiens, almost always sang the first seven lines in French, and completed the song in English, and this practice has continued with the team's subsequent anthem singers. Performers at Ottawa Senators games also commonly sing partly in French and partly in English. This was also the case at the Turin Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony where most of the song was sung in French by British Columbiamarker Opera star Ben Heppner, whose province is hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, in Vancouvermarker.

"O Canada" is routinely played before sporting events involving Canadian teams. "O Canada" is normally performed in English or a combination of English and French lyrics. The NHL requires arenas to perform both the Canadian and American national anthem at games that involve teams from both countries.

At a Calgary Flames game in February 2007, young Cree singer Akina Shirt became the first person ever to perform "O Canada" in a Canadian Aboriginal language at a National Hockey League contest. It was performed in a native language at the 1988 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Calgary.

Proposed changes to lyrics

Weir's original 1908 lyrics, consisting of three verses, did not contain the word "sons", instead using the somewhat archaic "thou dost in us command", and contained no religious reference. Weir changed the lyrics to "in all thy sons command" in 1914, and in 1926 added a fourth verse of a religious nature.

In June 1990, the city council of Toronto voted 12-7 to recommend to the Government of Canada that the phrase "our home and native land" be changed to "our home and cherished land", and "true patriot love in all thy sons command" be changed to "true patriot love in all of us command." Councillor Howard Moscoe said that the words "native land" were not appropriate for the many Canadians who were not native-born, and that the word "sons" implied "that women can't feel true patriotism or love for Canada."

Feminists such as Senator Vivienne Poy have criticized the English lyrics of the anthem as being sexist. In 2002, Poy introduced a bill to change the phrase "in all thy sons command" to "in all of us command". In 2006, the anthem's religious references (to God in English, and to the Christian cross in French) were criticized by secularists.

Vancouver 2010 Olympics

On September 25, 2008, John Furlong, the chairman of VANOC, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics organizing committee, announced that "With glowing hearts" from the English lyrics and "Des plus brillants exploits" from the French lyrics would be used as trademarked slogans for the 2010 Olympics.



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