TORONTO – The Tenors’ controversial rendition of O Canada at baseball’s all-star game got Don Cherry’s attention Wednesday as the hockey commentator slammed group member Remigio Pereira for embarassing Canadians with his altered and politically charged lyrics.
Pereira changed a line in the anthem to “We’re all brothers and sisters, all lives matter to the great.” The normal lyric is “With glowing hearts we see thee rise, the True North strong and free.”
The Tenors issued an apology after the performance, saying Pereira acted as a “lone wolf” and will not be performing with the group “until further notice.”
The fallout continued Wednesday for Pereira, who had a show at a London, Ont., theatre cancelled.
He was to perform with renowned guitarist Pavlo in late September at the Aeolian Hall but the venue said it’s “an organization which embraces diversity” and would not “present or allow groups or individuals to use our facilities who either intentionally or unintentionally promote racism.”
The term “All Lives Matter” was born in controversy into the American political vocabulary last year as a response to the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the heat of a debate over police shootings in the U.S. presidential candidate Martin O’Malley uttered the phrase at a Democratic party forum. He was booed and later apologized, an action criticized by some including Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Cherry was offended by the change of lyrics, but the targets of his ire in his Twitter rant were perhaps misplaced.
“Oh well, all the left wing weirdos in this country are happy,” Cherry said, although the “All Lives Matter” campaign is generally embraced by conservative Americans and not associated with left-of-centre politics.
Cherry has taken aim at left-leaning Canadians before, famously uttering “put that in your pipe you left-wing kooks” at the inauguration of former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
As for The Tenors, Cherry let the Canadian group off easy, except for the American-born Pereira. The Boston native who grew up in Gatineau, Que., also held up a sign reading “All Lives Matter.” The words “United We Stand” were written on the back of the sign.
“I do feel sorry for the rest of the Tenors,” said Cherry. “They will be noted forever as ‘oh yeah, the Tenors, they’re the jerks that embarrassed us at the all-star game. Ah, they’re good singers but what a bunch of jerks.’
“It’s sad, it was only one, and it was done by an American.”
Meantime, a spokeswoman for Heritage Minister Melanie Joly called the anthem a treasured Canadian symbol.
“Mr. Pereira’s change to the national anthem to further his political views is inappropriate and disrespectful,” Christine Michaud said via email.
In Quebec, one of the Parti Quebecois leadership candidates tweeted his support for The Tenors’ rendition before changing his tune.
Jean-Francois Lisee originally wrote he wanted to express solidarity with victims of violence.
He was slammed with a barrage of criticism, prompting him to tweet: “I realize now! I’m in the wrong about The Tenors. I am withdrawing my tweet. You are right. Thank you for the exchange.”
That was followed by: “I really blew it about the Tenors! Sorry about that.”