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TORONTO: After 47 years of living in Canada, feminist Ceta Ramkhalawansingh wants Canadian anthem be more “inclusive”

Toronto city councillor pushes for “O Canada” change

Ceta Ramkhalawansingh wants city council to ask Ottawa to make the national anthem more gender-inclusive.

By:  Staff Reporter, Published on Thu Aug 21 2014

In one of her only acts as a politician, interim city councillor Ceta Ramkhalawansingh wants to make history.

At Monday’s council meeting, Ramkhalawansingh will introduce a motion to request the federal government change the English words of Canada’s national anthem to be more gender inclusive.

If successful, singers of “O Canada” will eventually proclaim “true patriot love in all of us command” instead of “true patriot love in all thy sons command.”

“It’s about inclusion, and you’re really changing two words,” Ramkhalawansingh said.

Changing the national anthem requires an act of Parliament, not city council. But Ramkhalawansingh wants to push her colleagues in that direction.

“It’s my last city council meeting and I’m a feminist,” she said. “If you go back and look at the city’s history you will see the City of Toronto has provided leadership on many gender equality issues.”

The recommended word changes are based on the national “Sing all of us” campaign, founded by former prime minister Kim Campbell, author Margaret Atwood, Senator Nancy Ruth, former University of Toronto chancellor Vivienne Poy and educator Sally Goddard.

“It will be very interesting to see who supports and who may not support it,” Ramkhalawansingh said. “I can predict there will be a couple who won’t.”

Before joining city council, Ramkhalawansingh was a municipal civil servant for three decades and retired in 2010 as manager of diversity management and community engagement for the city.

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__________

Ceta Ramkhalawansingh

Country of Origin:

Trinidad and Tobago

My name is Ceta Ramkhalawansingh, and I moved to Toronto in August 1967. I came with my family, which included my mother, my father, my brother and a sister. The five of us moved here in part because our parents wanted us to attend university in Canada. We moved from Trinidad and Tobago, and although there are very good schools there, I think that they thought that travel and living overseas would be a very good thing for us to do.

 

When I moved to Toronto in 1967, I attended one year of high school and then entered the University of Toronto, where I became very involved in a range of student activities, in addition to going to school, of course. I became very involved in student government, as well as various course union programs. At that point in time in 1968 onwards, there was a move afoot to change the curriculum of the University of Toronto towards a more integrated, interdepartmental approach to curriculum, rather than very rigid programs of study. I became very involved in advocating and working towards establishing a feminist studies program.

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