Hockey games are one of the few places Canadians still sing the national anthem, says B.C. music professor Mary Kennedy. ((Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press))

When it comes to Canada's national anthem, only 67 per cent of Canadian high school students know the words — and even fewer can hum along, suggests a survey done by the University of Victoria.

The survey found more than 30 per cent of teens do not know the lyrics to O Canada, while only 46 per cent could sing it with fewer than two melodic errors, according to study author Mary Kennedy.

Kennedy, who is an associate professor of music education at the University of Victoria, said the findings are particularly troubling because the students in the sample were all members of school choirs.

Official lyrics to O Canada

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.

"It's very discouraging. These results are all the more disturbing due to the fact that students in the sample were enrolled in secondary choral classes where they received regular instruction in singing and had more opportunity than others to perform the anthem at various events," said Kennedy.

"What might this say of other students who do not sing in school choirs?" she asked in a statement released by the university on Wednesday.

Kennedy suggests there are many reasons for the poor results, including the limited number of opportunities students now have to learn and sing the anthem.

"Many high schools no longer play or teach the anthem. It's sad when the only exposure Canadian children have to the anthem is at hockey games, where the anthem is usually sung by a soloist.

"It's also plausible that the lack of consistent musical training guided by specialist teachers could also be a factor in the students' inability to sing the anthem with proficiency."

Kennedy said many students mangle the words, changing "thee" to "the," swapping "thy" for "our," and in some cases even paying homage to "our home and nature land" instead of "native land."

Newfoundland high school choir students were the stars of the national study, while Quebec students hit a real sour note.

Kennedy completed the study just prior to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, which she believes gave Canadians a new sense of pride in their national identity. She said she is now eager to re-test the students to see if their knowledge has improved as a result of hearing the anthem so many times during the Games.

The study involved a cross-Canada sampling of 275 high school choral students representing 12 schools in six provinces. Here's how they rated:

Lyrics ratings:

  • Newfoundland, 87%
  • Alberta, 83%
  • British Columbia, 76%
  • Ontario, 65%
  • Manitoba, 57%
  • Quebec, 36%

Melody ratings:

  • Manitoba, 62%
  • Newfoundland, 60%
  • Ontario, 50%
  • Alberta, 39%
  • Quebec, 28%
  • British Columbia, 27%
With files from The Canadian Press