Saturday’s Winnipeg Jets’ game against the Colorado Avalanche sparked a national debate after the Amber Trails School Choir sang the Canadian national anthem in Punjabi.
A part of the team’s South Asian Heritage Night featured the national anthem being sung in Punjabi and English for the first time in NHL history.
According to Statistics Canada, Punjabi is Canada’s fourth most spoken language at home, with 520,000 speakers, just behind Mandarin, which is in third place at 531,000 speakers.
The original post on X had 2.1M views by Wednesday morning. The post had 847 comments, filled with mixed reviews.
“I am of Punjabi background and can’t understand the need for this. Wokeism has no end,” wrote one user.
“They have translated English words into Punjabi, embracing diversity and showing inclusivity. Respect,” wrote another.
A few hours after Sportsnet had shared the initial video and the game had just finished, True North’s own Harrison Faulkner made his own post about the video, which had 1.5M views and 1.8K comments by Wednesday morning.
“What is the point of this?” Faulkner asked in his post.
This question ignited a fiery debate. Many people in the comments supported the anthem being sung in Punjabi, while others disagreed.
Rebel News’ Ezra Levant wrote a lengthy reply about why he supported the anthem despite being in favour of reduced immigration and for assimilation and integration, not multiculturalism.
“Don’t you agree that these earnest girls are more patriotic than Trudeau or his atrocious government, which took Sir John A. Macdonald off our $10 bill, tears down statues, renames streets, apologizes for our history, and calls Canada a ‘genocidal’ regime? Trudeau actually rewrote the anthem. Aren’t these girls more patriotic than he is?”
True North’s founder Candice Malcolm said Levant raised some good points but ultimately agreed with Faulker.
“Seeing anyone degrade [the national anthem] by changing the lyrics or singing it differently (whether it be the Canadian tenors, that ‘Vince Carter is amazing’ lady or this latest example) is wrong. I could maybe forgive a line or two in a foreign language as a gimic, but taking the whole second half of the song and re-writing it was wrong. I had a visceral reaction,” said Malcolm.
The francophone community had similar mixed reactions.
The Société de la francophonie manitobaine (SFM) believes that the event did not erase the French language but would like to see it more present in the activities of the NHL.
“The NHL could do more to enhance the French language on all its teams. Not only is Canada a bilingual country, but a large proportion of its players and coaching staff are French-speaking, not to mention the fans,” said the SFM.
French fans were outspoken on X about their concerns. The dialogue among French-Canadian fans was more one-sided — predominantly negative.
“Anything to avoid doing O Canada in French, which is, let’s not forget, the original language in which it was written: sung for the first time on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day in 1880, it was originally a French-Canadian national song,” said one user.
“In English Canada, making them sing O Canada in French is practically considered a crime against humanity, almost torture. But in Punjabi, it’s wonderful…,” said another.
The SFM calls for “a league-wide directive on the use of the bilingual national anthem.”
Emmanuelle Le Pichon-Vortsman, Director of the Centre de recherches en éducation franco-ontarienne, said, “accepting languages doesn’t mean replacing French with another. What I don’t like about this incident is that English was never questioned. It’s the French they questioned.”