“I wear my exclusion from Russia as a badge of honour and am proud to be in such distinguished company," he said in a statement.
"I have no intention of visiting Siberia. I have no investments in Sochi. I have no desire to visit Moscow and be poisoned as happened on my last trip."
HuffPost Canada's Althia Raj asked the Liberal MP for the backstory, and he said he hasn’t discussed the episode with anyone other than his family and friends until now.
It happened in 2006, when he was in Russia on a parliamentary delegation. He was dining with NDP MP Joe Comartin, who ordered the exact same meal but “nothing at all, happily, happened to him". However Cotler was not so lucky.
Here's the story in his own words:
“By the time, I got back to my hotel, I was violently ill. More than I had ever been almost in my life, and I started to throw up blood. I called the people in the hotel and told them I needed a doctor. Instead of sending a doctor, they sent up people to clean up all the blood -- in other words, all the evidence that a doctor would need.
“I called the Canadian embassy in Moscow, and they sent a doctor and the doctor looked at me, examined me and told me I had to go right away to the hospital. And they took me into the Russian Medical Centre, the hospital in Moscow and I was held there for several days. I never knew exactly what was being done because I didn't understand Russian and they didn't speak English.
“I was subsequently discharged, not feeling well and returned to Canada. Some months later I met a friend of mine who actually had been one of the physicians attending [Soviet defector Alexander] Litvinov, who told me that all my symptoms were the same as Litvinov. Except that they, in my case, probably just wanted to intimidate me and temporarily disable me, but not to kill me.
“There were a number of incidents at that time, of people being poisoned. When I was at my reunion of my Yale Law School class, I learned from talking to my classmate who became a president of the European Court of Human Rights that he too was poisoned around the same time in Russia. So it didn't appear to be coincidental.
“But then, the final part about this, is rather intriguing. In 2010, during the Intra-Parliamentary Conference to combat anti-Semitism, I called the Russian Embassy in Ottawa because they hadn't yet given us the names of their parliamentarians to attend the conference and they said, 'Oh Mr. Cotler, we're sorry. We want to get two high-ranking people so please call us next week and we will give you the names.’
“And I called them back the next week, and they gave me the names and then they said to me, 'Why don't you come visit us in Russia?'
“And I said, 'You know, the last time when I was there, I was poisoned.’ And then, just like that, the answer was, 'We're sorry. That was a mistake, it won't happen again.’
“So I haven't been back since then, but now I guess they made it official that I am banned from returning. But it is not the first time -- I was arrested and expelled in 1979. I was banned at that time for defending political prisoners in the Soviet Union whom they accused of consorting with criminal elements in the Soviet Union and named them, like the great Andrei Sakharov, the human rights dissident.
“Now I suspect, it has nothing to do with the Ukraine but probably because I tabled a Private Member's Bill regarding Sergei Magnitsky."
Magnitsky was an accountant and auditor in Moscow who uncovered a corruption scheme and testified against several senior Russian officials. He was subsequently imprisoned and died in jail in 2009 at the age of 37. Cotler chairs an intra-parliamentary group on Magnitsky, and he says that is like a "red flag" to Russia.
"My sense is that's probably the retaliatory reason in my case."
Cotler said some of the Americans also banned by Russia were people who had worked on the Magnitsky file. Cotler has blogged about Magnitsky's case for HuffPost.
Cotler said he also doesn't think the sanctions Russia imposed on the 13 Canadians today will have any impact.
"I don't think it will have any effect. In my case, it only encourages me and inspires me to intensify my advocacy. And I don't need to go to Russia for purposes of that advocacy. Our intra-parliamentary group for Sergei Magnitsky is international, it contains parliamentarians from over 20 countries.”
Also on HuffPost:
Comedian Tom Green attempts to get in on the scrum with Justice Minister Irwin Cotler outside the House of Commons in Ottawa after Question Period, on Monday October 24, 2005. (CP PHOTO/Fred Chartrand)
Prime Minister Paul Martin and Governor General Adrienne Clarkson watch while Irwin Cotler is sworn in as Justice minister during a ceremony where Martin was sworn in as Canada's 21st Prime Minister in Ottawa Friday Dec 12, 2003.(CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson)
Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, the MP for Mount Royal, joins supporters outside the leaders debate in Montreal on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2006. The federal election will be held on Jan. 23, 2006.(CP PHOTO/Andrew Vaughan)
Liberal MP and International Human Rights lawyer Irwin Cotler chats with Lingdi Zhang, daughter of Falun Gong practitioner Kunlun Zhang, as he reads a statement at a news conference in Ottawa Thursday Jan 18, 2001. Zhang, a Canadian citizen, spoke about his time in a Chinese labour camp and his recent release.(CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson)
Former cabinet minister Joe Comuzzi (left) watches as Justice minister Irwin Cotler votes for same sex marriage legislation in the House of Commons in Ottawa Tuesday June 28, 2005.(CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson)
Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler speaks to the media during a press conference in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009. Cotler, a noted Canadian human rights lawyer, has launched a petition campaign with a program for action against Iran, saying Iran must be held accountable for more than just its nuclear program. Cotler presented his petition and sanctions plan at a news conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
Justice Minister Irwin Cotler speaks to reporters after he met with a Toronto youth group to discuss the need to address the root causes of crime, on Wednesday Jan. 4, 2006. At left is Minister for Cities and Communities John Godfrey with Youth cabinet media director Natricia Dummond (centre left) and Director Saeed Selvah. (CP PHOTO/Stuart Nimmo)
Liberal MP Irwin Cotler responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Thursday June 4, 2009. Adrian Wyld/TCPI/The Canadian Press
Justice Minister Irwin Cotler gets set to appear before an ad hoc commons committee reviewing Prime Minister Paul Martin's Supreme Court selections in Ottawa, Wednesday, August 25, 2004. (CP PHOTO/Fred Chartrand)
Liberal MP Irwin Cotler who is challenging his goverment on outlawing Hezbollah is pictured on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2002.(CP PHOTO/Jonathan Hayward)
Newly elected Liberal Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler, from Mount Royal Quebec, is introduced in the House of Commons by Prime Minister Jean Chretien in Ottawa Monday Nov. 29, 1999.(CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson)
Irwin Cotler celebrates with Senator Sheila Finestone after winning the federal riding of Mount Royal in a byelection in Montreal Monday, Nov.15, 1999. The riding has been a Liberal stronghold for the past 59 years.(CP PHOTO/Ryan Remiorz)
Liberal MP Irwin Cotler speaks with the media during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday June 22, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Adrian Wyld