Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Author: David Haisell’ Category

Sign the Freedom of Movement Petition!

Share

In the years since its creation, the United Commonwealth Society has been joined by several groups in its advocacy for greater relations between the Commonwealth realms.

The newest group is the Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation. As their name indicates, CFMO advocates for the freedom of movement between Commonwealth nations, and Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom (CANZUK) in particular.

Since launching it at the beginning of March 2015, CFMO’s petition on Change.org has gained over 68,000 signatures and widespread media attention. A poll on the issue in an article on CBC.ca was answered by over 72,000 people, nearly 91% of whom supported the move.

To show your support, please click here or on the image below to sign the petition.

CAl7EJeWcAASbZB.jpg-large

 

The petition has been submitted to both the New Zealand and Australian governments; Canada and the United Kingdom will receive the petition after the completion of their general elections. If you are in Australia or New Zealand, please show your support after signing by contacting your elected officials.

http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members
http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/about-parliament/get-involved/contact/00PlibHvYrSayContact1/contact-an-mp

David J Haisell

Chair

2015 Council Election Results

Share

The votes have been cast and the results are in. Please meet your Council for 2015:

Chair: David Haisell (returning)
Vice-Chair: Jon-Paul Teasdale (new)
Secretary: Edward Harris (returning)
Representative, Australia: Sam Carruthers (new)
Representative, Canada: Liam Hill, UE (new)
Representative, Caribbean Realms: Jason Green (returning)
Representative, Pacific Realms: Wilson Thompson, MBE (returning)
Representative, United Kingdom, Territories, and Dependencies: Jon-Paul Teasdale (returning)

I would like to issue my thanks to all who voted and my welcome to those who are new to council this year. I would also like to issue my heartfelt thanks to Stephen Hale and Rowan Smith for their service to the Society over the past two years.

I wish everyone the best for the coming year!

David Haisell
Chair

2015 Council Elections

Share

In the coming weeks the United Commonwealth Society holds its annual council elections. All posts are being contested, including:

– Chair
– Vice-Chair
– Secretary
– Regional Representative (Australia, Canada, Caribbean realms, New Zealand, Pacific realms, United Kingdom)

If you would like to help shape the future makeup of the UCS council, join today to cast your vote. It may be your name on the ballot this time next year!

I would like to thank the current council for their work this past term and wish all candidates good luck in the election.

David J Haisell
Chair
United Commonwealth Society

End of the Ensign?

Share

Now that the dust has settled on the Scottish referendum, it is time to turn our attention to the next big referendum to be held in the Commonwealth: that of the future of the New Zealand flag. Shortly after his re-election as Prime Minister, John Key indicated that a referendum on the flag could be held as soon as 2015.

Flag of New ZealandMr. Key has labeled the the current New Zealand blue ensign a relic of the nation’s colonial past, and wants a design that is uniquely New Zealand, “Whether it’s stitched on a Kiwi traveller’s backpack outside a bar in Croatia, on a flagpole outside the United Nations or standing in a Wellington southerly on top of the Beehive every working day.” Others disagreed, pointing out the flag’s symbolism: the blue field, which symbolises the ocean that surrounds the island realm, and the Union flag, which symbolises its lasting connection to the Commonwealth.

New Zealand has no shortage of alternatives. Several flag designs have been proposed, most often featuring the “silver fern”, New Zealand’s botanical symbol, or the red Southern Cross from the current blue ensign. Nor is such a move without precedent; of the 15 Commonwealth realms excluding the United Kingdom, only Australia, New Zealand, and Tuvalu currently have an ensign as their flag. (The ensign is much more common among territories and subnational units; six Australian states, fourteen British Overseas Territories, two Canadian provinces, and both New Zealand territories fly ensigns as their official flags.)

Where, then, does this leave the United Commonwealth Society? It is perhaps not surprising that many of our members from New Zealand have expressed a desire to retain the current flag, as do several members from other realms. Does this mean that the Society’s official position – if, indeed, we should have one – should be the same?

Have your say by clicking HERE or on the image below to vote in our poll. Help shape the policy of this Society by having your say!

NZ flag poll on EasyPolls.net

 

David J Haisell

Chair

10 October 2014

The Last Queen of Scotland

Share

Tomorrow, the people of Scotland will face perhaps the most important day in their centuries-long history. They will assemble at polling stations to answer a simple, yet simultaneously complex question.

‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’

The United Commonwealth Society has, so far, been silent on the matter of the Scottish referendum. Our official policy, as written on our Proposals page, reads as follows:

The UCS recognises the democratic right of Commonwealth citizens to self-determination, and would welcome an independent Scotland or Quebec into the Commonwealth should their citizens wish to separate. However, it is our preference that both Scotland and Quebec retain their current status within their respective nations.

It is true that, to an extent, that our proposed Commonwealth realm union would not be significantly hindered should Scotland choose to become an independent realm, as those backing independence propose. Should they be interested in joining the union, there will be no barrier to their doing so that would not be faced by any other member. In this sense, therefore, there is no conflict between a ‘Yes’ vote and realm union.

The Union Flag projected on Edinburgh Castle during the REMT

The Union Flag projected on Edinburgh Castle during the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Photograph: Patrick Grieco

 

Read more

The Maple and the Palm

Share

Canada-Caribbean relations was a hot topic in the media and Facebook/Twitterverse this past week.

Flag of the Turks & Caicos Islands

Flag of the Turks & Caicos Islands

The most topical reason for the surge of interest was the visit of Turks & Caicos Islands Premier Rufus Ewing to Ottawa for a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. An offer from Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall to join the prairie province, later matched by Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz, launched a flurry of activity on Twitter. Pundits and amateur observers alike speculated whether the long-sought goal of Canadian annexation of the Islands would finally be achieved. Read more

The UCS Chair’s Commonwealth Day Address

Share

Union Flag at Queen's Park on Commonwealth Day

This speech was delivered by David Haisell, our Chair, at the Royal Commonwealth Society of Canada’s Commonwealth Day flag-raising ceremony at the Ontario Legislative Building, Queen’s Park, Toronto, on 10 March 2014.

Mr. Chairman, fellow Commonwealth enthusiasts,

It is an honour and a privilege to be speaking to you on such an important day and in such an important place. When I was elected chair of the United Commonwealth Society just over a year ago, I did not imagine even for a moment that I would be speaking here today. I am grateful to Andrew McMurtry and the Royal Commonwealth Society, Toronto Branch, for their gracious invitation.

When looking back over the last few years, it is fair to say that the Commonwealth has not had it easy. The organization has been plagued by years of apathy and neglect, perhaps demonstrated most strongly by last year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka. Setting aside the differences of opinion that arose over the choice of host, only 27 heads of government or state attended the meeting. Excluding those nations who announced their decision not to attend, 23 heads of government or state simply did not show up, sending other government officials in their place.

This followed on the 2011 Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, where those in attendance failed to agree on or endorse most of the findings of the Eminent Persons Group tasked with reviving and reforming the institution. Former British Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a member of the group, decried the results, stating “The Commonwealth faces a very significant problem. It’s not a problem of hostility or antagonism, it’s more a problem of indifference. Its purpose is being questioned, its relevance is being questioned, and part of that is because its commitment to enforce the values for which it stands is becoming ambiguous in the eyes of many member states.”

Perhaps most symbolic of the Commonwealth’s decline was a BBC report this January announcing a threat to the Commonwealth’s most powerful ambassador: the Commonwealth Games. Bids for the 2022 Games were few and unenthusiastic, leading many to question whether the Games would even continue beyond 2018.

All that said, however, the future for the Commonwealth is not necessarily bleak. Although not all recommendations made by the Eminent Persons Group were officially endorsed in Perth, the discussion did result in the drafting of the Charter of the Commonwealth, signed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II a year ago. The debate surrounding last year’s meeting in Sri Lanka revived the Commonwealth as a topic of discussion, prompting observers in each member nation to ponder the organization’s future. We gathered around televisions and computers to celebrate the athletes of Team Commonwealth as they competed at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, and will do so again this summer as they meet at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. We will come together and remember the courage and sacrifice of those who fought and died for King and Empire a hundred years ago in the First World War and 75 years ago in the Second World War, and honour those who continue to serve today.

With the Commonwealth’s profile rising among its citizens, the potential for a long-overdue rebirth is building. There is a sense, expressed by many members of the United Commonwealth Society, that no matter where we set foot within the Commonwealth, we are still “home”. A sense that our Commonwealth cousins are connected by an intangible web that other nations lack, that transcends geography and economics. It’s a kinship forged by centuries of shared history. And it is particularly true of the Commonwealth realms, the 16 nations who share Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

The Commonwealth realms, in our opinion, share a unique and privileged position within the Commonwealth. In addition to their head of state, these nations share a common language, a common history, a common dedication to democratic values and multicultural demography, similar legal and political systems, similar economies, and broadly compatible national and international interests. This commonality will be key to the Commonwealth’s future.

We are already seeing the seeds of a new realm alliance being sown. Many of the larger realms already cooperate on matters of defence, demonstrated by the “Five Eyes” intelligence pact between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Trade between the realms is also growing; Canada is about to enact a new economic agreement governing trade with the European Union, nearly half of which takes place with the United Kingdom. Just last week, Britain’s Commonwealth Minister Hugo Swire reported that doing business with other Commonwealth members reduces costs by 20% compared to non-Commonwealth nations, a clear advantage that is begging for further recognition.

During the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, the heads of the Commonwealth realms held a special parallel meeting to discuss reform of their royal succession laws, demonstrating a shared commitment to resolving mutual concerns. We believe that more regular meetings between realm officials should take place, culminating in the establishment of a permanent forum for the Commonwealth realms to determine best practices and opportunities for cooperation. Together, the realms should advocate for stronger alliances between Commonwealth members, whether economic, defensive, or environmental in nature. Freer movement between the realms will allow us to learn more about our Commonwealth cousins and the worlds they inhabit. The realms can share opportunities in times of prosperity and stand together in times of crisis.

By speaking with a common voice on the world stage, the Commonwealth realms can maximize their collective and individual influence and opportunities, benefit from a better footing when interacting with other significant powers, and better ensure their shared values continue to be heard in a changing world. I thank you for your time and wish you a happy Commonwealth Day.

David Haisell
Chair
United Commonwealth Society

The Year Ahead

Share

On behalf of the 2014 Council of the United Commonwealth Society, I would like to thank all members for voting in this year’s election. Your support for our continued leadership of the Society is encouraging and gratefully received.

2013 was a transformational year for the Society. Membership closed in on 400 members. Our social media campaign bore abundant fruit, with our Facebook and Twitter pages attracting over 700 and nearly 100 followers respectively. Our website was rebuilt and relaunched, becoming a focal point for Society matters and attracting ever-increasing readership.

2014 will be a banner year in the Commonwealth; we will cheer on our athletes when they meet on the fields of play in Sochi, Edinburgh, and Brazil. We will bow our heads as we remember those who served and fell for King and Empire a century ago in the First World War. And those of us in the United Commonwealth Society specifically will remember those visionaries who met in the summer of 1884 to found the Imperial Federation League, our Victorian-era inspiration.

For these reasons, we are optimistic that the year ahead should prove just as transformational as the last for the Society. We will continue our social media and membership campaigns, with the goal of reaching 600 members, 1000 Facebook likes, and a greatly increased number of Twitter followers by year end. We will reach out to those in power to share our ideas and argue for increased bonds between the Commonwealth realms. We will endeavour to take the Society offline through face to face meets of members in our regions of interest. Finally, we will investigate the Society’s incorporation as a not for profit organisation, continuing the Society’s evolution.

Many more plans will be made and announced in the weeks and months that follow. As always, we welcome and encourage all member input and engagement. Were it not for your support, you would not be reading this today.

The year to come holds great challenges and great promise. We on Council will do all that we can to face any obstacles that come our way and work with you, our fellow members, to spread the word about what a Commonwealth realm union can achieve.

David J Haisell
Chair

Stephen Hale
Vice-Chair,
Representative (Canada)

Edward Harris
Secretary

Nick Thompson
Chairman Emeritus

Rowan Smith
Representative (Australia)

Jason Green
Representative (Caribbean)

Rob Morgan
Representative (New Zealand)

Wilson O. Thompson, MBE
Representative (Pacific)

Jon-Paul Teasdale
Representative (United Kingdom, Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies)

With the Night Mail

Share

To someone only familiar with the Jungle Book series and its Disneyfied film adaptations, the 1905 short story With the Night Mail is a rather mundane entry in the Rudyard Kipling bibliography. No tales of exotic creatures in exotic locales, no epics of adventure in far-flung corners of the British Empire, just the story of a humble courier accompanying a load of mail on the transatlantic post office airship to Quebec City in the year 2000.

Come again?

nmcoverKipling’s steampunk-esque vision of the future appears highly anachronistic today. Although far more advanced in its development at the time, the passenger airship would live for only another three decades, meeting an untimely demise from fiery crashes and the rise of the passenger plane. Nevertheless, the tale’s core is surprisingly prophetic: ‘Postal Packet 162’ is scheduled to complete the London-Quebec run in twelve hours – not much different from an average transatlantic flight today, and a great improvement over the five-day voyage the British traveller faced at the time. Read more

Welcome to the brand new website of the United Commonwealth Society!

Share

The United Commonwealth Society is a new vision for the Commonwealth, but at the same time a very old one. Founded in 2002, the UCS is inspired by the Round Table Movement of the 19th and 20th centuries (see our History of the UCS Page). We are a cross-party organization dedicated to encouraging closer diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties between the member states of the Commonwealth of Nations. In particular, the UCS advocates closer economic and political links between the Commonwealth Realms, the sixteen nations that have Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State.

We believe the Commonwealth Realms have the potential to form a global alliance of like-minded countries, with a shared language, history and culture. Such a union would be home to more than 120 million people, have a territorial presence in most corners of the globe, possess significant military and diplomatic power, and be a major player in many sectors of the global economy.

Be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our feed or check back frequently as we update this site with UCS developments, Commonwealth news, and comment from UCS directors and members. See our Membership page to learn how to get involved in making our vision reality!

David Haisell
Chair
United Commonwealth Society

800px-Commonwealth_Realms_map2

Map of the Commonwealth Realms (source: Wikipedia)