Canada and the Commonwealth
On this page
- Mandate and institutions
- Intergovernmental organizations
- Commonwealth Secretariat
- Commonwealth of Learning
- Commonwealth Foundation
The modern Commonwealth is a values-based association of 56 countries, most with historic links to the United Kingdom and home to over 2.5 billion people over five continents.
Canada first joined the British Commonwealth as an independent state in 1931. The modern Commonwealth came into existence in 1949 with the London Declaration, and Canada has played an important role in its evolution.
Queen Elizabeth II served as the Head of Commonwealth during her 70-year reign. The role of Head has now passed to King Charles III, who attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in June 2022 in Kigali, Rwanda.
Canadian diplomat Arnold Smith served as the first Commonwealth secretary-general from 1965 to 1975. The current secretary-general, Patricia Scotland, is the sixth secretary-general of the Commonwealth, chosen in 2015, and is the first woman to hold the post.
Mandate and institutions
The mandate of the Commonwealth is to serve the needs of its member governments and their citizens in political, economic and social development. The Commonwealth also provides a forum for deliberation, problem solving, consensual decision-making and action on matters of importance to its membership.
The Commonwealth advocates for small and vulnerable states, helping to strengthen their climate and financial resilience and inclusion in the global order.
Canada participates in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which is held every two years. CHOGM leaders review the progress on commitments, discuss matters of mutual interest and provide direction to the organization. Canada hosted CHOGM twice, in 1973 and in 1987. The most recent CHOGM was held in 2022 in Kigali, Rwanda. During this event, Prime Minister Trudeau drove action on issues such as food insecurity, climate change, and gender inequality.
The next CHOGM will take place in Samoa in 2024.
Canada also takes part in the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), a selected group of foreign ministers (or their delegates) selected for 2-year terms. CMAG was established in 1995 to assess violations of Commonwealth values and to recommend measures to restore democracy and constitutional rule.
The 56 members of the Commonwealth celebrate Commonwealth Day on every second Monday of March. This year’s Commonwealth Day theme – “Forging a Sustainable and Peaceful Common Future” – reflects the shared commitment of member countries to improve the lives and opportunities of all citizens of the Commonwealth for generations to come. It is especially relevant given the Commonwealth’s contributions against climate change and toward international peace and security.
Within the Government of Canada, Global Affairs Canada acts as the lead for Canada’s overall relationship with the Commonwealth, joined by other government departments, reflecting the organization’s actions in diverse areas, such as climate change and the environment; gender equality; and democracy, freedom of expression, and the rule of law.
The Commonwealth includes 3 intergovernmental organizations:
- the Commonwealth Secretariat
- the Commonwealth Foundation
- the Commonwealth of Learning
Canada is the second largest donor to the Commonwealth and contributed a total of $10.86 million to the institution in 2021-2022.
Established in 1965, the Commonwealth Secretariat:
- convenes summits and high-level meetings
- executes plans of the Commonwealth Heads of Government
- promotes Commonwealth values and principles
- facilitates the work of the Commonwealth organizations as defined in its strategic plan
- coordinates several election monitoring missions each year
The Secretary-General uses her good offices to support democratic processes and to prevent or help resolve conflicts.
In 2021-2022, Canada contributed $7.04 million to the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Commonwealth of Learning
The Commonwealth of Learning focuses on strengthening institutions in Commonwealth countries that are striving to provide affordable education to larger numbers of their people. It is a global leader and champion in the use of open, distance and technology-based learning as a cost-effective development tool to provide access to quality education and skills for employment opportunities, the empowerment of women and children, and to reduce poverty and inequality.
Canada is the Commonwealth of Learning’s host (located in Burnaby, British Columbia) and largest donor. At CHOGM in Rwanda, Prime Minister Trudeau announced $7.8 million over three years for the renewal of long-term institutional support (LTIS) for the Commonwealth of Learning.
The Commonwealth Foundation is dedicated to supporting civil society in Commonwealth countries by sharing success stories, enabling learning and fostering cooperation to influence the institutions that shape people’s lives. The Foundation strives for more effective, responsive and accountable governance in Commonwealth countries with civil society participation, which contributes to improved development outcomes.
The Foundation’s recent activities include projects funded by Canada in areas such as supporting civil society in the recovery from COVID-19.
In 2021-2022, Canada contributed $1.22 million to the Commonwealth Foundation.
Report a problem on this page
- Date Modified: