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Canada and the commonwealth

Canada and the Commonwealth, is Canada really independent? Or is it one of the 54 countries?

The Commonwealth of Nations is a political association with 56 sovereign states as its members. Commonwealth is an international organization of countries with different economic, social, and political backgrounds. These nations possess equal status and work within a shared framework of goals and values outlined in the 1971 Singapore Declaration. These values and goals include promoting the rule of law, civil liberties, equality before the law, free trade, democracy, human rights, good governance, multilateralism, and world peace.

Known and held as the Commonwealth games, these common values and goals are practiced through a variety of events and projects held once in four years. The Head of the Commonwealth is Queen Elizabeth second; however, this role is completely symbolic, and she has no political power over any other members of the organization.

In this article, we will take a deeper look at what Commonwealth is, its history, and Canada and the commonwealth relations.

Map of the Canada and the Commonwealth nations

Map of the Commonwealth of Nations

History of Canada and the Commonwealth

On Dominion Day (later known as Canada Day) in 1959, Queen Elizabeth second declared the first of July as the birth of the first independent country (Canada) in the British Empire, and “So, it also marks the beginning of that free association of independent states which is now known as the Commonwealth of Nations.”

From 1884 many of Britain’s colonies were becoming more independent. Finally, this led to the Imperial Conferences in 1911. What we today recognize as the Commonwealth of Nations developed from these Imperial Conferences. In 1921 during the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the term British Commonwealth of Nations was first used instead of British Empire by the members of the Irish Free State Parliament.

At the Imperial Conference of 1926, in what became known as the Balfour Declaration, Britain and its Dominions claimed to be “equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.” And by this Declaration, the Commonwealth of Nations was officially established.

New Commonwealth

Planners of interwar, including Lord Davies, during 1932 based the New Commonwealth Society, which British segment was under the rule of Winston Churchill. This new society aimed toward the advent of a worldwide air force to be an arm for the League of Nations, which allowed these countries to promote peace around the globe.

The term ‘New Commonwealth’ has been common in the UK since the 1960s and 1970s and refers to currently independent countries, predominantly non-white and developing. Britain and other pre-1945 nations are now informally referred to as the ‘white Commonwealth,’ meaning what was known as the White Dominions back then.

Members of the Commonwealth of Nations

Across all continents of the world, the Commonwealth of Nations includes 56 countries as its members. The most populous country which is a member of the Commonwealth is India, with 1.4 billion residents. After India, Pakistan with 227 million, Nigeria with 213 million, Bangladesh with 167 million, and the United Kingdom with 68 million are the next populous countries included in the Commonwealth.

Canada, with a 9,984,670 km2 land area, is the largest country within the Commonwealth, and after Canada is Australia, with a 7,617,930 km2 land area.

Canada and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

Commonwealth`s purpose

 The Commonwealth is established to serve its members` governments and people in all social, economic, and political aspects. Additionally, it creates a forum for the members to deliberate and discusses their problems, makes decisions, and take action in different areas.

The Commonwealth advocates for smaller nations as well. This means helping them in their economic and political conditions, supporting them to join the global order, and developing Human rights and democracy. The Commonwealth’s theme is determined annually. The theme of 2021 was ‘Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming.’

Canada and the Commonwealth relations

Canada joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1931 as an independent state. The Commonwealth as we know it was established in 1949 by the London Declaration, in which Canada had a vital role. Arnold Smith, the Canadian diplomat, was the first secretary-general of the Commonwealth and kept the position till 1975. The sectary-general is the chief executive of the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is held every two years in which Canada also participates. In this meeting, Canada and commonwealth countries discuss and review the progress of their commitments, their goals, and mutual interest. In 1973 and 1987, Canada was the host of the CHOGM meeting.

Commonwealth Games stamp, 1958
Commonwealth Games stamp, 1958

Canada and the Commonwealth Writers Prize

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize was established in 1987 and is awarded to writers from the members’ countries. Initially, the award was given to the best book and best first book in the regions of Africa, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific.

During the years when the prize was awarded, Canada won the prize many times by Mordecai Richler in 1990; Rohinton Mistry in 1992 and 1996; Lawrence Hill in 2008. And Eliza Robertson won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Canada and the Commonwealth Secretariat

The Commonwealth of Nations has three intergovernmental organizations:

  •     The Commonwealth Secretariat
  •     The Commonwealth of Learning
  •     The Commonwealth Foundation

One of the main functions of the Commonwealth Secretariat is to facilitate the organization’s work planned during the meeting. Canada and the Commonwealth Secretariat cooperate in many areas.

In the youth department, the Secretariat developed youth worker skills in Canada’s universities and colleges which eventually helped these young individuals in their future work life. With the Commonwealth’s Blue Charter Action Group and The Secretariats’ help in 2019, Canada banned industrial activities in protected marine areas.

To enhance the trading connection, in March 2018, Canada and commonwealth countries in Durban, South Africa meeting discussed ways to reduce the barriers to trade in different ways, such as improving infrastructure.

As a member of the Regulatory Connectivity group of the Commonwealth property Agenda, Canada also exchanges practices and experiences of trade and economy and engages in domestic reforms.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth Nations, at Windsor Castle, 1960
Queen Elizabeth II and the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth Nations, at Windsor Castle, 1960

Canada advocates the Blue Charter Action Group on Ocean Observations. The Action Group, including Canada and Commonwealth nations, held its first assembly in May 2019 in Ottawa, Ontario. Members discussed priorities and a movement plan and agreed to maintain annual conferences to check development at the numerous tasks they have planned on.

In 2019, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, Jonathan Wilkinson, introduced a budget of $2.7 million to develop an ocean statement via innovation and improvement and to boost the sharing of data, information, and practices among Commonwealth countries.

In addition, Canada and the Commonwealth work on the Clean Ocean Alliance, Ocean and Climate Change, and Sustainable Blue Economy Action Groups.

Last Words on Canada and the Commonwealth

Including 56 nations, Canada and the commonwealth countries are countries with equal status. These countries with common values and goals promote democracy and human rights not only within their borders but also for vulnerable states around the world. Over the last decades, Canada, as one of the important members of this organization, has been developing and promoting these values.

Here we finish our article on Canada and the Commonwealth. Please feel free to leave your comments and feedback, and inform us if you require any further information in this regard. You can also read more about Canada’s GeographyEconomySocio-cultural, and history.

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