Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in the U.K. as part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which runs until Friday.
The leaders of the 53 Commonwealth countries – including the U.K. and other, smaller ones like the Bahamas – are on hand to discuss matters including who will lead the Commonwealth after the Queen.
Queen Elizabeth II, who is also Canada’s monarch, has been the head of the Commonwealth since 1952.
But with her 92nd birthday right around the corner, there’s been talk of who’ll replace her – since the position isn’t hereditary like the monarchy.
“The choice of successive Heads will be made collectively by Commonwealth leaders,” a statement on the Commonwealth’s website reads.
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A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May reiterated the sentiment earlier this week.
“Succession is a matter for the Commonwealth as a whole to determine,” he said.
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Canadian government officials confirmed to Global News the issue of succession will be discussed at the Leader’s Retreat on Friday.
So who’s up for the position?
Most likely, the heir to the throne, Prince Charles.
British Prime Minister Theresa May supports him for the position.
“The U.K. supports the Prince of Wales as the next head of the Commonwealth. He has been a proud supporter of the Commonwealth for more than four decades and has spoken passionately about the organization’s unique diversity,” the spokesman told reporters.
The Queen herself has also said the Prince is the likely candidate. At the 2015 summit in Malta, she said she “could not wish to have been better supported and represented in the Commonwealth than by the Prince of Wales, who continues to give so much to it with great distinction,” according to a 2015 news article.
Head of Commonwealth vs. Monarchy
The head of the Commonwealth has traditionally been the monarch of the U.K., who is also the monarch of 15 other Commonwealth countries – including Canada.
But when India wanted to become a republic in 1950, the monarchy ceased to be its head of state. Officials still wanted to be part of the Commonwealth, though, and as such, the title Head of Commonwealth was created.
But since that title isn’t hereditary, it means when the heir to the throne (currently Prince Charles) assumes the monarchy – of both England and Canada, along with many other countries – the title of Head of Commonwealth doesn’t automatically pass to him.
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The head of the association is a symbol and has no role in governance, but plays key roles in the association.
As previously stated, the leaders of the 53 countries will decide together who will be the next head of the Commonwealth.
What is the Commonwealth of Nations anyway?
The Commonwealth is an association of 53 countries. Membership is voluntary.
While it has formerly been known as the British Commonwealth, and traditionally contained former territories of the British Empire after decolonization, it’s since branched out.
Rwanda, which was a former German and Belgian colony, was admitted to the Commonwealth in 2009.
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The countries share a charter, which “brings together the values and aspirations which unite the Commonwealth — democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”
Canadian officials called the association a “champion of democracy.”
“The many different backgrounds, cultures and languages of the Commonwealth family’s more-than-two-billion people remind us that diversity and inclusion form a proven path to peace and prosperity,” Adam Austen, spokesperson for Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, told Global News.
*Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Adam Austen is a spokesperson for Minister Freeland, and not the Prime Minister’s Office. Global News regrets the error.