Canada and the Commonwealth

What is the Commonwealth?

The modern Commonwealth is an association of 53 countries, most with historic links to the United Kingdom, and home to two billion citizens, almost 30 per cent of the world's population. It is the world’s oldest political association of sovereign states. Members cooperate within a framework of common values and goals.

The Commonwealth has a small permanent Secretariat in London, led by a Secretary-General, currently former Indian diplomat Kamalesh Sharma. The Secretariat supports intergovernmental meetings, and operates a number of small programs related to building support for democratic processes and human rights, as well as inclusive growth and sustainable development. It also coordinates several election monitoring missions each year. The Secretary-General uses his "Good Offices" to support democratic processes and to help resolve conflict. The Commonwealth sees itself as an advocate for small and vulnerable states, helping to strengthen their resilience and inclusion in the global economy. The Commonwealth also includes a number of intergovernmental and accredited civil society organizations.

The Commonwealth celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2009. 

Commonwealth Renewal

At their summit in November 2009, Commonwealth Heads of Government established an Eminent Persons Group, of which Canada’s Senator Hugh Segal was a member. The Group was tasked with developing options for reform in order to sharpen the impact, strengthen the networks, and raise the profile of the Commonwealth as a values-based organization. At the 2011 CHOGM in Australia, the Eminent Persons Group presented a report, entitled “A Commonwealth of the People: Time for Urgent Reform”, to Heads of Government. This report ultimately resulted in the December 2012 adoption of an historic Charter for Commonwealth and a wide-ranging package of reforms, including improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Commonwealth Secretariat to deliver results. Canada welcomed this advancement as an important step in the Commonwealth’s reform and renewal process.

Canada's Financial Contribution to the Commonwealth

Canada funds the Commonwealth and its institutions through assessed contributions as a member state of the Commonwealth, and through voluntary contributions for specific projects and programs, with the amounts determined at Canada’s discretion. Key institutional partners include the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commonwealth Foundation, and the Commonwealth of Learning (located in Vancouver, British Columbia). Canada’s support to the Commonwealth of Learning contributes to helping member governments provide increased access to affordable, quality education and training opportunities for those who need it most, particularly women and girls, using open, distance and technology-based approaches.

Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) is a rotating group of nine Foreign Ministers that meets when necessary to examine serious and persistent threats to democracy in Commonwealth countries.

CMAG was created at the 1995 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Auckland, New Zealand, and was the outcome of a Canadian initiative to give the Commonwealth a high-level inter-governmental mechanism to respond to serious violations of the “Harare Declaration” of 1991. CMAG was given an enhanced mandate at the 2011 CHOGM, where Leaders agreed to strengthen the Group’s ability to address serious or persistent violations of Commonwealth political values.

The CMAG’s membership is reconstituted every two years. CMAG’s membership is currently comprised of Ministers from: Cyprus, Guyana, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. Canada last served as a member of CMAG from 2011-2013.  

Commonwealth Games

The XX Commonwealth Games will be held in Glasgow, Scotland from July 23 to August 3, 2014. Canada has participated in every Commonwealth Games since the first Games were held in 1930 in Hamilton, Ontario. The Games have been held in Canada four times.

For more information, please visit the Commonwealth Games Canada web site and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games official website.