Liberal MP Mauril Belanger has tried and failed for years to bring in gender-neutral lyrics to "O Canada," but this time it looked like it might come true.
Belanger was diagnosed with ALS last fall and his health has rapidly deteriorated in recent months. On Friday, MPs from all parties applauded as he introduced, with electronic voice support, his bill to change the national anthem lyrics from "in all thy sons command" to "in all of us command."
"Changing only two words," he said "gives Canada an inclusive anthem that respects what we were and what we have become as a country."
With the new Liberal government making gender parity a vocal priority, it looked like Belanger's cause would succeed.
An hour later, he found himself farther back than when he started, with his bill buried at the bottom of the parliamentary calendar.
Conservative MPs largely oppose changing the national anthem. They don't have enough votes to kill the bill, but they managed to use procedural levers to boot it off the agenda likely until next fall.
The Conservatives can't delay the bill indefinitely, but Belanger may not be healthy enough to see it through himself.
Private members bills like this don't get as much time or precedence as government legislation. There was only one hour of debate allocated to Belanger's bill Friday. If it wasn't moved to a vote by the end of the hour it would fall back to the bottom of the priority list.
Several Conservative MPs stood to praise Belanger's efforts, but then explained why they opposed changing the national anthem.
Several said it would open a Pandora's box to stripping away other Canadian icons.
"Maybe the botanists will be in an uproar about the shape of the maple leaf on our flag and demand it be changed. Or some may be upset that the almighty beaver won't stop chopping down trees," said Conservative MP Larry Maguire.
Conservative after Conservative stood to speak until it was time for the House to rise for the weekend. The Liberals then asked for unanimous consent to keep debate going.
If all MPs agreed, they would keep debate on Belanger's bill alive. But the Conservatives said no, effectively burying the legislation.
"No, we didn't filibuster," Conservative MP Harold Albrecht said afterward. "We weren't prepared for another hour of debate."
"It's also 2:30 and I'm on my way to the airport," said Conservative MP Karen Vecchio.
Belanger still has options. If an MP who has time allocated to their own bill agrees to swap with him, the anthem issue could be back in the House sooner rather than later.
We'll stand on guard for further updates.
Paul McLeod is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Paul McLeod at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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