Queen signs historic Commonwealth charter after missing earlier event
Published Monday, March 11, 2013 8:34AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 11, 2013 10:06PM EDT
Queen Elizabeth II missed her first scheduled public appearance since she was hospitalized with a stomach bug last weekend, but she still made it to a Commonwealth Day reception, where she signed an historic charter intended to boost human rights.
The 86-year-old monarch backed out of the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey on Monday as high commissioners from around the globe descended on London for the yearly event.
In a statement, Buckingham Palace said the Queen is continuing to recover from her recent illness.
“The Queen hopes to undertake some of her official engagements planned for the rest of this week,” the statement read.
Those included a reception Monday evening, where the Queen signed the charter that opposes “all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.”
In a speech posted online Monday morning, the Queen emphasized that rights must be afforded to everyone, “especially those who are vulnerable.”
The charter represents the first time the Commonwealth has agreed on a single document that details 16 core beliefs common to all member states. It was adopted by all 54 Commonwealth nations in December.
The document is being hailed by some as a sign that the Queen, now in the 61st year of her reign, is shifting to a more progressive tone.
“It’s 2013. Even the monarchy has got to learn to find new ways to relate to the world we live in today,” royal commentator Bonnie Brownlee told CTV News Channel on Monday.
Some British media outlets have said the civil liberties outlined in the charter extend to gay rights, while others have said the language used in the document is deliberately vague.
“In some cases (the Queen) has been criticized for not really saying enough about gay rights,” said Brownlee. “But when you use the terminology that they have used in this charter, pretty much they’re opposed to discrimination against anybody. It’s pretty clear that gay rights are being included.”
The principle of equality, particularly relating to the gay community, poses a challenge to adopt throughout the Commonwealth. In countries such as Bangladesh and Sierra Leone, for example, being found guilty of homosexual acts can result in a sentence of life in prison.
In a statement released Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Commonwealth Day is an opportunity to “celebrate the fundamental values” that link Commonwealth countries.
“In an uncertain world, the Commonwealth must continue to stand for the principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law while also promoting good governance and development throughout the world,” he said.
Harper welcomed the new charter, calling it an “important milestone” which “reflects key Canadian priorities including the protection and promotion of religious freedom and the need to oppose discrimination on any grounds.”