It is the first thing you hear before a hockey, football or soccer game.  It is the song they teach Canadian kids all across Canada from kindergarten and up. 

There is a stamp on the Canadian society, that whenever they hear this song, they stop and sing along.  This song is the Canadian National Anthem.

The title (wonderfully so) is called O’ Canada.  The song was written in 1880 by Lieutenant Governor of Quebec Théodore Robitaille in French.  It wasn’t until 1906 the lyrics where then translated into English and in 1980, O’ Canada officially became Canada’s national anthem.

The original lyrics did not contain any religious reference, as it was first meant to be a patriotic poem.  The English lyrics have been altered and revised along the way up to 1980, changing lines like “in all thy sons commands” to “thou dost in us command”.  While a completely new verse was written for religious purposes, Toronto voted “thou dost in us command” out and agreed to re-establish many of the original lyrics in 1990.  The French language version has remained unaltered since it was written.  

It is usually sung in the French or English version, as those are the two official Languages of Canada.  But it has also been translated into native Inuktitut.  Often you will only hear the music of the Canadian National Anthem, it depends on the event and where it is being played.

The lyrics for the Canadian National Anthem as it is today are:

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

The lyrics for the Canadian National Anthem in French are:

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

O’ Canada was actually in competition with other poem-turned-songs.  Its greatest competitor was called “The Maple Leaf Forever“.  By World War 1, O’Canada had taken its rightful place in the hearts of Canadians.  

The lyrics of “The Maple Leaf Forever” are as follows:

In Days of yore,

From Britain’s shore

Wolfe the dauntless hero came

And planted firm Britannia’s flag

On Canada’s fair domain.

Here may it wave,

Our boast, our pride

And joined in love together,

The thistle, shamrock, rose entwined,

The Maple Leaf Forever.


The Maple Leaf

Our Emblem Dear,

The Maple Leaf Forever.

God save our Queen and heaven bless,

The Maple Leaf Forever.

At Queenston Heights and Lundy’s Lane

Our brave fathers side by side

For freedom’s home and loved ones dear,

Firmly stood and nobly died.

And so their rights which they maintained,

We swear to yeild them never.

Our watchword ever more shall be

The Maple Leaf Forever


Our fair Dominion now extends

From Cape Race to Nootka Sound

May peace forever be our lot

And plenty a store abound

And may those ties of love be ours

Which discord cannot sever

And flourish green for freedom’s home

The Maple Leaf Forever


It is considered an honour to sing the Canadian National Anthem, and many contests have been held for those lucky singers who get to sing it (especially at the beginning of a hockey game).  There has also been a long line of famous Canadian singers who have sung O’ Canada proudly.  Celine Dion, the Canadian Tenors and Kreesha Turner are just some of the famous names attached to the list.  

The Canadian National Anthem is classified in the Public domain, so it is not copyrighted.  You do not need permission to use it in any way.  If you do translate it into another language, keep in mind that it will not be seen as an official version.  

There is certain etiquette for when you hear the Canadian National Anthem (or any anthem for that matter) played.  It shows a sign of respect if you stand during the whole song.   The men must remove their hats; many times you will see them place the hats over their hearts.  It is not necessary for women and children to remove their hats, but now a day’s most do.  

The Canadian National Anthem has as much history as the country itself does.  Loved by past and present Canadians, it will go into the future with pride and beauty translated into its words.