Canada’s parliament passed a bill Wednesday to make the lyrics to the country's national anthem gender neutral.
The bill, which requires royal assent by the governor general to become law, changes "in all thy sons command" to "in all of us command" in the third line of "O Canada," and it only passed the Senate after a protracted battle, CBC News reports. The House of Commons passed it in 2016, but it was held up by conservatives in the Senate before a controversial motion to halt debate was introduced by independent Ontario Sen. Frances Lankin.
"I'm very, very happy. There's been 30 years plus of activity trying to make our national anthem, this important thing about our country, inclusive of all of us," Lankin said. "This may be small, it's about two words, but it's huge…we can now sing it with pride knowing the law will support us in terms of the language."
Conservatives took issue with the process used to pass the bill, according to CBC:
Conservative senators were furious that Manitoba Sen. Don Plett, who has long opposed the bill, was not able to speak in opposition to such a motion. They said it was an affront to democracy to use these time-limiting motions to silence the opposition.
"When a majority of individuals decide to shut down discourse in this place, democracy dies. We need to be very wary of tools that muzzle debate … that is the fundamental right you have, to get up and speak on any piece of legislation, none of us have the right to take that away," Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos, himself a former Speaker, said ahead of the vote.
Larry Smith, the Conservative leader in the Senate, call Lankin's motion that finally ended debate — officially called a "dilatory motion" — a "Draconian tool" that has never before been used by an Independent senator that was like a "guillotine" coming down on voices in the minority.
"It's very unfortunate. It just shows you that things aren't functioning in the way they should," he said.
Plett himself argued that such a major decision for the country should have to go to a national referendum.
"I believe the Canadian public wanted a say in our national anthem, just like they had in the great Canadian flag debate," he said. "This is an issue for the Canadian public to decide not just a couple of Independent senators."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday said the change is a "positive step toward gender equality."
Mauril’s bill to make O Canada gender neutral passed third reading in the Senate tonight – another positive step towards gender equality. #inallofuscommand
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) February 1, 2018