CALGARY – Zut alors, pardner!
The Calgary Stampede is apologizing for dropping a French-language verse of “O Canada” before the popular chuckwagon races.
Kurt Kadatz, a Stampede official, said the bilingual version of the anthem was dropped on Saturday because people in the stands didn’t like how the song was arranged.
He said a more traditional bilingual arrangement of the anthem was being recorded and was expected to be ready to play to the crowd as early as Tuesday night.
“We didn’t mean to offend anyone and we are sorry if we did,” he said. “We are certainly pleased to bring back the traditional bilingual version that we have had.”
The Stampede has played a bilingual version of “O Canada” for years, but it recorded a new arrangement for the rodeo’s centennial celebrations this year.
Kadatz said people found the new version hard to sing along to.
When people in the stands complained, organizers rushed to change the anthem, but decided to record an English-only version to save time, he said.
That was a mistake, he said.
“We tried something new, and sometimes new works and sometimes it doesn’t. In this case it didn’t work. Our guests told us they liked the traditional version, so we are learning that we shouldn’t have altered the traditional arrangement in the first place.”
Reaction to the French flap on Twitter has been mixed.
BillyMeanJean tweeted the reason the French verse was dropped was that Alberta is still angry at former prime minister Pierre Trudeau for the national energy program.
Still, others felt the move was nothing more than bad manners.
“Bad form and a poor decision made by the Calgary Stampede,” wrote junipergal.
A spokesman for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said his boss will likely steer clear of the anthem controversy.
Kadatz said officials hope people will forget what happened and enjoy the Stampede, which runs until Sunday.
“It wasn’t a French versus English decision. It was a logistics decision. We appreciate the patience of our guests for these changes.”
Minister of State for Sport Bal Gosal says the government always advocates that both official languages be included in events.
“The Calgary Stampede is a private organization. They do their own thing. It’s a great Canadian tradition, great outdoor function … The government is always advocating both official languages, but a lot of private organizations do their own thing.”
— By John Cotter in Edmonton