There’s a time and a place to voice our political views. Conversely, there are situations, and methods, that are not appropriate for making political statements.
Unfortunately, a member of the Canadian singing group The Tenors chose the latter Tuesday evening.
Understandably, a firestorm of criticism has followed the incident at the annual Major League Baseball all-star game in San Diego in which a member of the B.C.-based quartet altered the lyrics to “O Canada” during their singing of the anthem prior to the game.
Remigio Pereira changed a line in the song — “With glowing hearts we see thee rise, the True North strong and free” — to “We’re all brothers and sisters, all lives matter to the great.” He also held up a sign during the performance which read “All Lives Matter” on one side and “United We Stand” on the other.
The other members of the B.C.-based group promptly took to Facebook to point out that Pereira was acting entirely on his own — as a “lone wolf” to “serve his own political views.”
Pereira, reportedly a Boston native, later defended his actions on Twitter, explaining “I’ve been so moved lately by the tragic loss of life and I hoped for a positive statement that would bring us all together.”
Instead, his political grandstanding was met with a strong backlash, including from the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, Sandy Hudson, who took offence to Pereira’s action. That’s because the phrase “all lives matter” is seen as invalidating the concerns of the “Black Lives Matter” movement because it downplays the fact that in the vast majority of police shootings or brutality that have sparked public outrage, the victims were black.
Other Canadians were upset that the singing of “O Canada” was used as the vehicle for Pereira’s personal political view, and with good reason. By using the Canadian anthem in that way, Pereira essentially chose to make a political statement on behalf of Canadians, a shockingly presumptuous action on his part. The Tenors, in their Facebook apology, called Pereira’s action “extremely selfish” and added “he will not be performing with The Tenors until further notice.”
As Pereira’s Twitter explanation suggests, his act was likely quite well intentioned. But he opted for a most improper platform to express his views, and in altering the lyrics of his country’s national anthem to do so, he disrespected Canadians from coast to coast. The anthem, after all, belongs to and represents all Canadians.
Pereira is far from the first person to use such a public stage to share his political views. Everything from the Academy Awards ceremony to the Olympics has been hijacked for such personal purposes in the past, and the appropriateness of these sorts of actions has long been debated.
But Pereira clearly overstepped the bounds of propriety with his act Tuesday evening, and while The Tenors have apologized, even though they were as stunned as everyone else, Pereira himself owes an apology.
Editor’s note: On Friday, Pereira issued an apology for his actions.