Opinion: As we debate the monarchy, let’s strengthen the Commonwealth

Commonwealth nations have a shared historical past, respect for the rule of regulation, and respect for democratic values. Collectively, they could be a highly effective drive for good on the planet.

“If I die tomorrow, I can’t remorse. I actually did every part I might.” These phrases, as soon as stated by the late Freddie Mercury of Queen, might actually have utilized to Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen left an indelible private mark on the world.

Her 70-year reign straddled the good moments of put up conflict historical past, and she or he knew all of the movers and shapers of that historical past. It started within the depths of the Chilly Conflict; witnessed the autumn of the Berlin Wall; the tip of apartheid in South Africa; a United Kingdom each becoming a member of and exiting the European Union; lined huge social and political change inside the UK and the world at giant; and ended with a world once more divided and at loggerheads as Russia and China reject the notion of a liberal, rules-based, worldwide order.

You are reading: Opinion: As we debate the monarchy, let’s strengthen the Commonwealth

Transitions are seldom straightforward, pivotal ones even much less so.

However, whereas the general public discourse has been totally on the monarchy and its future, a separate and well timed query is what ought to we, as Canadians, need to do with the Commonwealth?

An necessary distinction: the monarchy and the Commonwealth should not one and the identical. Solely 15 of the 56 nations that comprise the Commonwealth have the monarch as head of state.

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The Commonwealth spans the globe and is dwelling to 2.5 billion world residents. Whereas the geopolitical energy of the U.Okay. has diminished within the postwar interval, the collective of Commonwealth members has the potential to be influential world shapers. For instance, they’re a part of many of the worldwide multilateral structure: the G7 (Canada and U.Okay.); the G20 (Canada, U.Okay., India, Australia and South Africa); APEC (Canada, Malaysia, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore); the African Union (19 of its members); and the IMF and World Financial institution (all Caribbean Commonwealth nations are members of the Canadian constituency).

Why is that this necessary? The world at present is retreating into large energy politics, a twenty first century model of the Chilly Conflict, with Russia and China eager to remake the world order in their very own picture of historical past.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has constructed a profession on waging conflict all over the place from Chechnya to Georgia to Syria to Ukraine, and reveals a burning want to rebuild the legendary “Russian empire.” China’s President Xi Jinping has tightened his grip on Chinese language society and Hong Kong by subverting the “rule of regulation” right into a “rule by regulation”; unleashed an aggressive “wolf warrior diplomacy” overseas; and threatens Taiwan and peace within the South China seas.

These best-buddy malevolent super-powers proceed to jostle for affect from all over the place from Africa to the Center East to the Americas. And, as everlasting members of the United Nations Safety Council, every enjoys veto energy. In the course of the Trump years, because the U.S. sadly turned inward, each sought to bolster their presence in a complete host of multilateral establishments.

Towards this backdrop, Canada might take into account turning our consideration to the Commonwealth and its potential to be a better drive for good on this unsure world.

Commonwealth member nations have a shared historical past, respect for the rule of regulation, and embrace democratic values. They subscribe to the widespread targets of prosperity, democracy and peace.

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However the Commonwealth punches effectively beneath its weight on world affairs. Its affect is subliminal at finest, and its function usually appears extra backward-ooking than forward-minded. It is a misplaced alternative in a world that wants cohesive alignments of like-minded nations.

Canada has all the time had a fairly sturdy voice within the Commonwealth. By means of instance, in the course of the Nineteen Eighties and Nineties, prime minister Brian Mulroney, overseas minister Joe Clark, and our diplomats took a really sturdy, principled and ethical stand inside the Commonwealth towards the apartheid regime in South Africa, an strategy at odds with British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. In the long run, with Canadian management and middle-power affect, apartheid collapsed below worldwide strain.

It’s time for Canada to once more put a political concentrate on the Commonwealth, and on what its world position might be. With the Commonwealth’s variety — giant nations and small, wealthy nations and poor, nations located within the east, the west, the north and the south — a concentrate on democratic establishments and the rule of regulation; on liberalized commerce and funding; on environmental sustainability; and on battle decision and safety might be extremely influential due to the Commonwealth’s variety.

The best way to flip this potential into actuality? At simply over $10 million, Canada is the second-largest donor to the Commonwealth, however to be efficient the Commonwealth wants extra monetary and institutional sources, and Canada may lead on this regard. The Commonwealth Secretariat must be streamlined, reformed and reinvigorated to make it purpose-built for at present’s geopolitical challenges, and Canada might use its affect to facilitate this modernization.

One early and tangible manner of demonstrating our dedication to this re-purposing of the Commonwealth could be to supply to host a Commonwealth Heads of Authorities assembly — one thing that has not taken place right here since 1987.

Hon. Kevin Lynch was Clerk of the Privy Council and vice- chair of BMO Monetary Group. Paul Deegan was a public affairs govt at BMO and CN.

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