Happy Canada Day! - O Canada!

This article refers to the last item in this week's "Memorials and Things of Fame" about the writing of new words to Canada's National anthem.

Jo Ouellet was the daughter of Senator Josie Quart and Harry S. Quart, one of the owners of the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph in the 1930s, along with Major Gwyllm Dunn, J.S. O’Meara and the Price family. Jo Ouellet created WONDERWORD puzzles, which were published in the QCT and in other newspapers for many years. Since her untimely death in 1997, her son David continues writing WONDERWORD word search puzzles for  publication in newspapers around the world. www.wonderword.com

 Jo’s son Dr. Jay Ouellet is a Quebec City chiropractor and photojournalist, and a frequent contributor to the QCT. When asked to explain his mother’s passion to write a bilingual version of “O Canada,” Jay said, “She was way ahead of her time. Too smart for Canada. In fact Gilles Vigneault, who had asked my mom to adapt his song ‘Mon Pays’ in English, said [her version of ‘O Canada’] was a masterpiece…but Canada would be too stupid to adopt it.’ He was right.

“This version was endorsed by editors of all of Canada’s major newspapers. Including the Canadian version of TIME magazine.

“My brother Gary went up to Ottawa to represent this song; he explained how easy it was to learn and how everyone would sing together. My mother, through my brother, also told the Council, ‘We had no intention of making money with this. We gave the song to the country for free. The people who sing together remain together – as a nation. 

“Pearson gave us the Maple Leaf flag in 1967. He then called for a National Anthem Commission. Two thousand songwriters across Canada sent in their versions. The council decided to keep the melody. As for the words, there were three finalists: The English Weir version, the French Routhier version and the Jo Ouellet bilingual version. A 12-member Privy Council would decide. Their decision had to be unanimous.

“The Privy council voted 9-3 for the Jo Ouellet version; it was not unanimous. They decided people can sing the English, French or a bilingual version.

“Ever since, we never hear any version whereby we know the words. People change them to suit their whim. Crazy.”