'I sang the facts,' says Jully Black about 1-word change to O Canada at NBA All-Star game

Jully Black is drawing attention for a subtle change she made to the lyrics of O Canada at Sunday's NBA all-star game.

She sang 'O Canada! Our home on native land,' with emphasis on the word 'on'

A woman in a red dress sings into a microphone
Jully Black sings prior to the 2023 NBA All-Star game between Team Giannis and Team LeBron at Vivint Arena on Feb.19, 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Jully Black says the subtle change she made to the lyrics of O Canada at Sunday's NBA All-Star game was the result of a long reflection.

"I sang the facts. We are walking, breathing, living, experiencing life on native land. On Indigenous land," the Juno Award-winning R&B singer told The National on Monday.

Black performed the national anthem before the game in Salt Lake City, Utah, and altered one line to recognize the Indigenous peoples who lived on the land before European settlers.

Black swapped out the anthem's usual opening line "O Canada, our home and native land," with "O Canada, our home on native land," adding a slight emphasis to the word "on" when she sang.

Some viewers praised Black's revised lyrics, and many used the hashtag #OurHomeOnNativeLand on Twitter. 

WATCH | Jully Black says lyric change was result of long reflection:

Big reactions to Jully Black’s lyric swap in O Canada

1 month ago
Duration 2:12
In a performance at the NBA All-Star game, singer Jully Black made a slight lyric change in O Canada to “our home on native land,” a swap that’s received strong reaction.

Black became emotional as she recounted how a close friend, who is Indigenous, reacted to her lyrics.

"I didn't know how much this would mean to him. But now I do. And to every person who has lived generationally through being Indigenous, and just want the world to know that their lived experience matters."

Positive reactions

Isaiah Shafqat, a Mi'kmaw student and Indigenous student trustee with the Toronto District School Board, praised the change to the lyrics.

"It was exciting. It was a shock, because, you know, Indigenous people, we listen to O Canada and we always hear 'home and native land.' And that's not true," he told The National.

A number of people on Twitter commended Black's performance, including rapper Chuck D, a member of U.S. hip-hop group Public Enemy:

"My girl @JullyBlack just kicked the most soulful O Canada I ever heard at 2023 #NBAAllStar game," he tweeted.

'Attacks the symbol'

But some people criticized Black's revision, with one user on social media saying she was "just creating controversy," and another saying it was "absolutely disgraceful."

Some could be offended by the change, and might think it "attacks the symbol" of the anthem, explained Frédéric Bérard, co-director of National Observatory on Language Rights and a lecturer at the Université de Montréal's faculty of law.

"But I don't see any consequences for her because she is exercising her constitutional right," he said.

This is hardly the first time the words in O Canada have been changed.

For instance, in 2018 a years-long effort to make the anthem more inclusive, led by late Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger, became official when the second line was rewritten to make it gender-neutral.

The new wording of the anthem's English version became "in all of us command" from "in all thy sons command."

WATCH | Jully Black's performance:

With files from Deana Sumanac-Johnson, Nazima Walji, The Canadian Press