Celebrating the Commonwealth

After the death of Queen Elizabeth II last fall rocked Commonwealth countries, the 56 countries came together to celebrate her legacy and simultaneously the future on Commonwealth Day on March 13.

Throughout the week, countries who still consider the monarch of England their head of state celebrated Commonwealth Day. This year’s theme is “Forging a sustainable and peaceful common future.”

Commonwealth Day Westminster Abbey Service. Commonwealth Day 2023 multicultural, multi-faith service held at Westminster Abbey. Image courtesy of The Commonwealth. 

His Majesty King Charles III

“The Commonwealth has an incredible opportunity, and responsibility, to create a genuinely durable future – one that offers the kind of prosperity that is in harmony with Nature and that will also secure our unique and only planet for generations to come.

“The myriad connections between our nations have sustained and enriched us for more than seven decades. Our commitment to peace, progress and opportunity will sustain us for many more,” stated His Majesty King Charles III during his Commonwealth Day message.

Commonwealth Day 2023 multicultural, multi-faith service held at Westminster Abbey. Image courtesy of The Commonwealth.

Events Held Throughout the Week

Throughout the week, starting Monday, March 13, countries worldwide held various events to honour their ties to the United Kingdom.

In London, a wreath-laying ceremony honoured fallen Commonwealth servicemen and women, followed by a special service at Westminster Abbey and a reception at Buckingham Palace, according to the

Most significantly, countries around the world raised the Commonwealth flag for peace to recognize the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Commonwealth Charter.

The Charter, signed in 2013 by Queen Elizabeth II, “enshrines the shared values of the organization such as peace, democracy, human rights, rule of law and care for the environment,” stated the Commonwealth organization.

Commonwealth Day History

While it has a long history dating back to 1897, when it was known as Empire Day, Commonwealth Day has been officially recognized by all Commonwealth countries since 1977 and celebrated on the second Monday in March.

The idea for the day was to “remind children that they formed part of the British Empire.” It was first conceived in 1897 and introduced in Ontario schools in 1898, where it was celebrated before May 24, Queen Victoria’s Birthday. It was introduced in the UK in 1904.

Wreath-laying ceremony at the Commonwealth Memorial Gates on Commonwealth Day 2023. Image courtesy The Commonwealth. 

Canada Pays Homage

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement this week to recognize Commonwealth Day. He especially highlighted how this is the first Commonwealth Day celebration since the passing of Queen Elizabeth.

“Today marks the first Commonwealth Day since the passing of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and represents an opportunity to remember and honour her enduring legacy,” stated Trudeau.

He also touched on the importance of being in the Commonwealth and how, together, the countries work to “make life better for the 2.5 billion people untied by this organization.”

“Now headed by His Majesty King Charles III, countries in the Commonwealth build consensus through deliberation on matters of importance to its members, and advocate for the inclusion of small and vulnerable states on the world stage. Based on friendship and goodwill, we have made significant headway together on priorities such as democracy and peace, environmental issues, education, and sustainable development,” added Trudeau.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, has raised the Commonwealth Flag for Peace at a ceremony in London on Commonwealth Day.

Flag for Peace

To mark Commonwealth Day, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, raised the Commonwealth Flag for Peace at a ceremony in London on Commonwealth Day.

“We join every city across the United Kingdom, and young people in capitals across the Commonwealth, in proudly raising this Flag for Peace towards the heavens.

“As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of our Charter, in this Commonwealth Year of Youth and Peace, we raise the Peace Flag as a fitting emblem to our commitment to each other, and to the world. Peace is precious. It is not guaranteed. It takes work, patience and courage,” said the Secretary-General.

The specially-designed flag was created to promote 2023 as the Commonwealth Year of Peace across the Commonwealth nations.

The Secretary-General was joined by Commonwealth leaders, ministers and youth representatives.

A map that includes the 56 countries that belong to the Commonwealth.

Canada’s Connection

Canada celebrates its connections to the Commonwealth in multi-faceted ways, but most prominently is through the Commonwealth of Learning. Based in British Columbia, the Commonwealth of Learning supports developing nations through access to education and training.

To learn more about the Commonwealth of Learning, visit here.

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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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