Sgt. Chantal Larocque sings trilingual anthem at Blue Jays game
It was an unforgettable moment for countless people, including the guest of honour herself, when Chantal Larocque sang the national anthem to open the Blue Jays baseball game in Toronto on September 30th. In observance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Larocque was invited to sing the O Canada in French, English and Algonquin at the Blue Jays’ home, the Rogers Centre. The Anishinabek Police (APS) Sergeant sang the anthem in front of the packed stadium, which included roughly 200 people who came just to support her: community members, other APS staff, and friends. To her surprise, her performance was aired live along with the game, so people coast-to-coast got to see it too.
The story of how she got there begins with the creation of this tri-lingual version of the anthem. “What happened is, during COVID, when the first 215 children were found in Kamloops on the residential school property, there was this very anti-Canada Day sentiment,” Larocque explains, which she says prompted the idea of creating the APS version of the national anthem in multiple languages, and eventually recording it then producing a video featuring Larocque.
Once the APS’ O Canada video was posted online, it began to take on a life of its own. “The video goes out on social media, and to be honest we didn’t think a whole lot of people would see it, and then it started to go a little bit viral. Schools started using it in the morning for the anthem. Sporting teams were using it as well. We were getting requests to use it, and absolutely, it’s there to share. So, it kind of grew and what happened is someone from the Blue Jays came across it on social media, and they sent it to their entertainment chief saying, ‘find this officer to see if she could do the Jay’s game on the 30th,’” Larocque describes.
At first, she didn’t quite believe it was real. The Blue Jays’ Entertainment manager had left a message through the APS’ answering machine, and Larocque initially thought it might be a prank until she saw the Caller ID and the Toronto area phone number. She quickly called back. “When I spoke to the lady she said, ‘oh my gosh, I can’t believe you’re calling me’, and I said, ‘I can’t believe you’re calling me!’” she laughs.
When asked how she felt in the moments leading up to her performance, Larocque admits that she had a touch of stage fright. “I was pretty nervous, but when I stepped up to do the anthem, I quickly told myself; ‘This is a big moment, and it’s not about you. It’s about all those that are not here, it’s about all the children, about all those that are here to support you, and all Indigenous people across Canada having this opportunity, so just go out there and do it. You’re doing it for a mass group here,’” she recalls. The O Canada began in French, continued in English, but when Larocque began to sing in Algonquin, an audible cheer erupted from the stands across the stadium. “I could hear them, they were past 3rd base, kind of in the foul ball zone, and I could hear from where I was standing the cheering. It was amazing,” she says, adding that even the staff at the stadium were surprised by that reaction. “It was interesting, because the Jays’ staff said, ‘we’ve never heard a crowd so loud and proud for an anthem singer.’”
Another very important part of Larocque’s performance was when she raised an eagle’s feather during the song. “For me personally, the eagle feather is just calming, it just grounds you a little bit more. It was the eagle feather from our Nipissing detachment, but it’s a cultural reference for people, that is visual, to go ‘ok, I’m being honoured right now, our people are being honoured.’ It’s something that is symbolic from the east to the west coast. […] Raising that feather was just raising Indigenous peoples’ hands up to being acknowledged, and seen, and recognized,” she explains.