Mauril Bélanger serenaded with gender-neutral 'O Canada' at ALS walk

One day after his private member's bill to change the English lyrics of O Canada advanced to its final vote, Mauril Bélanger was serenaded with a version of the new anthem at an ALS walk in his Ottawa riding.

Veteran MP has introduced private member's bill to change anthem's English lyrics

Mauril Bélanger gets a thumbs-up from a supporter at the 2016 Ottawa Walk for ALS. The veteran Liberal MP revealed he had the debilitating motor neuron disease late last year. (Hillary Johnstone/CBC)

One day after his private member's bill to change the English lyrics of O Canada advanced to its final vote, veteran Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger was serenaded with a version of the new anthem Saturday at the annual Ottawa Walk for ALS.

The Ottawa-Vanier MP was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease — in late 2015, and his health has steadily declined to the point that he required an iPad app to speak in the House of Commons last month.

On Friday, he returned to the Commons, where MPs voted in favour of a motion to accept his bill at the report stage.

Bill C-210 changes the line "in all thy sons command" to "in all of us command," making the English lyrics of the national anthem gender neutral.

It was that version that was sung by a few dozen people outside the Canadian War Museum Saturday morning.

"We're very sad that this is happening to him," said Suzanne Copping, one of the nearly 1,000 participants that organizers expected to take part in the annual five-kilometre walk, which raises money for ALS research and education.

Clad in a purple "Team Mauril" sweatshirt, Copping said she got to know Bélanger while they were part of student politics at the University of Ottawa decades ago.

'He was quite touched'

"We're happy for him, that he was able to come here today. He was quite touched [that they would] sing the national anthem," Copping said.

Bélanger's bill will have its final vote next Wednesday. Despite opposition from Conservative MPs, it's expected to pass easily and then proceed to the Senate.

Members of Parliament applaud and give the thumbs up sign to Ottawa-Vanier MP Mauril Belanger as his private members bill on changing the Canadian anthem is debated in the House of Commons Friday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)