Mr. Speaker, today is Commonwealth Day, celebrated annually on the second Monday in March to mark the establishment of the modern Commonwealth.
Each year a special theme is attached to this day. The focus this year is on sports and the Commonwealth. This theme has special significance for Canada because we will be hosting the 15th Commonwealth Games this summer in Victoria, British Columbia. For an unprecedented fourth time in the history of the Commonwealth Games, Canada will have the honour of hosting the Commonwealth's festival of sports and culture.
The Commonwealth exemplifies unity and diversity and the strength of multilateralism and co-operation. Almost one-quarter of the world's population now forms the Commonwealth.
Through the Commonwealth, Canada is linked with 49 other countries of various races, faiths, languages, cultures and traditions. The Commonwealth provides an opportunity for Canada to enhance its relationships with the member countries and to advance Canadian foreign policy interests.
Canadians can take pride in the accomplishments of the Commonwealth to which Canada has contributed greatly over its long and vital history. Arnold Smith, a remarkable Canadian diplomat and the first Secretary General of the Commonwealth who unfortunately died last month, is just one example of the dedicated Canadians who have helped to build the Commonwealth and its institutions. Canada will continue to contribute to the Commonwealth through the 1990s and beyond.
In just over one month Canadian observers will be present alongside other Commonwealth and international observers for the first ever democratic elections in South Africa. These elections are an important step in that country's history.
After having assumed a leadership role within the Commonwealth and the fight against apartheid and for universal suffrage these elections also hold a very special significance for Canada and Canadians. Our efforts in the aftermath of these elections will not diminish.
I assure hon. members and Canadians that we will continue to be a prominent member of the Commonwealth to mobilize efforts to promote fundamental human values. These basic values lie at the heart of the Commonwealth and were reaffirmed in the landmark 1991 Harare declaration.
The people to people linkages holding the Commonwealth family together are numerous and are found in every sector and we will continue to promote them. It is in this spirit that we intend to host the Commonwealth Games this year.
I ask all members to join with me today in recognizing the importance of Canada's membership in the modern Commonwealth.