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what is Canada?

zimmerman pt3

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I'm so bloody embarassed to ask this but what is Canada's offical title in relation to the UK? I mean, I know we're a sovereign nation and that we amended our constitution in 82 that took away Britain's power over us, but isn't there still some sort of affiliation besides the Queen and the Gov General hanging over us symbolically and ceremonially?!?

People here at work are bugging me about it and I'm not quite sure what the answer is. Are we part of the commonwealth?

Flame on,.,

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we are in the commonwealth, and i know that any changes in federal legislation require royal ascent (?! is that the term?! it's been a while since grade 9 social studies ::) meaning the queen basically rubberstamps our decisions... but she does technically have the right to say 'no way am i letting those crazy canucks do that!'

and that's all i know.

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The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 diverse, independent states spread over all continents and oceans, interacting through a network of governmental and non-governmental links. Today, while half the members are small states with populations under one million people, member states represent nearly one quarter of the world's population (1.7 billion people) and nearly one third of the membership of the United Nations.


In 1949, after becoming independent, India chose to become a republic while retaining its Commonwealth link. This marked the beginning of the modern Commonwealth. The number of member states grew quickly between the late 1940s and the 1960s as many Asian and African countries achieved independence and decided to join the organisation as sovereign states. Since then, many small Caribbean, Indian and Pacific Ocean island countries have become members.

Members agreed that the British monarch should be "the symbol of the free association of member nations and as such Head of the Commonwealth," regardless of whether a member country retained the British monarch as its head of state. Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of Canada, monarch of 14 other realms among the 53 Commonwealth member countries, and Head of the Commonwealth for all. She is present at all summits, but does not attend meetings.

The modern Commonwealth

The Commonwealth has no constitution per se, but it does have formal principles. The 1971 Declaration of Commonwealth Principles, adopted by Heads of Government in Singapore, states that member countries must strive for:

* the pursuit of international peace and order in support of the United Nations,

* the promotion of representative institutions and guarantees for personal freedom under the law,

* the recognition of racial equality and the need to combat racial discrimination and racial oppression, and

* be dedicated to lessening the disparities of wealth in societies.

In 1991, the Harare Declaration recognized the special emphasis the Commonwealth places on values such as human rights, the democratic ethic, gender equality, sustainable development and environmental protection. States who do not uphold these principles may incur suspension. This is currently the case with Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Over the years, three countries have voluntarily left the Commonwealth and rejoined. In 1961, South Africa left due to the Commonwealth's opposition to the government's policy of apartheid. Following the democratic elections of a new multi-racial government, South Africa was readmitted into the Commonwealth on 31 May 1994. Pakistan left in 1972 after other members recognised the new state of Bangladesh (previously part of Pakistan). It was welcomed back in 1989 when the democratically-elected government applied to rejoin. Fiji Islands allowed its Commonwealth membership to lapse following a military coup and the declaration of a republic in 1987. Fiji Islands reapplied and rejoined as a member in October 1997.

Decision making within the Commonwealth

A Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is held every two years to discuss world political, economic and social issues, how these affect Commonwealth countries and what responses can be made both within the Commonwealth and by acting together in other international bodies. Until 1971, all the meetings were held in London. Since this time, CHOGMs have been held in different countries, with the Head of Government of the host country presiding.

A communiqué is issued after each CHOGM reflecting the discussions. The tradition is to operate through consensus and to establish as much common ground as possible. From time to time, declarations have been issued expressing a common view of broad objectives and principles.

Difficult issues are usually left for the Retreat, when leaders spend one or two days together in a casual setting away from the conference location. Here, the Heads confer without officials and with a maximum of informality. In this atmosphere, the more sensitive issues can be raised and common ground better explored.

Between the CHOGM meetings, Commonwealth senior officials meet to review the implementation of decisions of the previous CHOGM and to identify issues that may be raised at the next meeting. Commonwealth finance ministers meet every year. Ministers responsible for health, education, environment, law, foreign affairs, youth and women's affairs also meet regularly, and other ministers may meet on an occasional basis.


The Commonwealth has attained a high level of credibility because of its non-threatening and supportive attitude to members' needs. Over the years it has developed areas of expertise that contribute directly to the capabilities of member states to face specific or common challenges. Member countries benefit from the support of a large network of private, voluntary and professional organizations, including universities, parliamentarians, legal, medical and other professions and organizations in the media and sports (Links to Commonwealth associations and NGOs).

As the current Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon, puts it:

"The Commonwealth is a network that cuts across networks. Any consensus reached within this diverse group has an excellent chance of winning support more widely, in other organisations."

Armed with a common working language and similar systems of law, public administration and education, the Commonwealth has built on its shared history to become a vibrant and growing association of states in tune with the modern world.

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Although I can add nothing of value to AD's very detailed discussion of the Commonwealth, I can add something regarding Mooose's comment.

It is true that we require "royal assent" to any legislative changes, and technically the Governor General represents the Queen as the true "leader" of our country. That being said, there is also a tacit understanding that if the Governor General/Queen fails to "rubberstamp" our proposed changes (which is a very apt description of their function) the Queen will quickly lose the privilege of having such matters run by her.

(There are considerably more details regarding this relationship between our countries than that, but they tend to be encompassed in legal texts on federalism that run into the hundreds of pages.)

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Yeah, that stuff.

Though her official job is to represent the Queen and watch over all her subjects blahblahblah, I think her real job is to promote Canada to Canadians and to the international stage. Now, I'm not saying she's succeeding in that, but I think she's trying a bit.

I know it's a waste of money, but like StoneMtn sez the whole postion is a waste of cash. So are lots of other "traditional" and "symbolic" things that, for all the bitching, are here to stay. Like the Senate for example. Wouldn't it be nice if the Senate at least tried to do something for all that money being wasted?

Really, Clarkson's name is probably more well known to the general public than most former GG's, and I think it's because she's trying to make an irrelevant position in some way meaningful. Hopefully she'll succeed or at least pass a spark on to the next one.

Personally, I think I'd be a great GG. Plus I have a cool signature for all the currency.

Anybody know how I can apply?

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Did you know that there's a position in parliament for "The holder of the Black Rod"? I learned recently that they pay a guy 50 grand a year to perform a house of commons ceremony where he bangs on the door with the black rod, and they slam it in his face (symbolic of keeping the monarchy away from the state..or something like that).

Anyway, I'm working on getting a few of his business cards.

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