Conservative MPs blocked the transfer of the Gender-Neutral Anthem Bill (bill C-210) from its original sponsor Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger to chief government whip Andrew Leslie in an attempt to block passage of the bill.
The government moved to transfer the bill to Leslie as Bélanger, who suffers from the incurable amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and is too ill to take his seat in the House of Commons. The bill could not be voted on without its sponsor present.
The move to transfer required unanimous consent to which the other opposition parties agreed.
Tory House Leader Andrew Scheer told reporters that members of his party “all love and support Mauril” as he battles his illness.
“But it’s not about Mauril, it’s about the bill itself,” Scheer said. “The vast majority of our caucus is opposed to the bill. They’ve heard from their constituents. I think the vast majority of Canadians feel they haven’t even been consulted or even informed that this change to their national anthem is even happening.”
Scheer said he told the Liberals long ago that his caucus would not help facilitate the passage of a “flawed” bill.
The bill passed second reading by a vote of 219-79, with the support of the Liberals, NDP, a handful of Conservatives and Green party Leader Elizabeth May.
MPs took to twitter to show their displeasure with the move. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May called it a shame.
In the end, Bélanger made it to the House of Commons Friday and his bill will move on.
The bill aims to change two words in the national anthem to make it gender neutral. The bill seeks to replace the lyrics “all thy sons” with “all of us.”
Bélanger and others have all pointed out that the original, gender-neutral wording of the anthem — “thou dost in us command” — was changed to “all thy sons” in 1913.