This month marks the 32nd anniversary of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a landmark achievement in the promotion and protection of human rights, and which has served as a model for other countries drafting constitutions of their own. While Canadians have occasion and cause to celebrate this transformative constitutional document, silence is to be expected from Canada's Conservative government. The government's consistent refusal to fully acknowledge the Charter's importance is regrettable not only as a matter of symbolism, but as one of substance as well.
Irwin Cotler est l'ancien député de Mont-Royal, où il a d’abord été élu lors d’une élection complémentaire, en novembre 1999. Il fut ministre de la Justice et procureur général du Canada de 2003 à 2006. Le professeur Cotler a siégé aux comités des cabinets suivants : affaires autochtones; affaires intérieures; affaires internationales; relations Canada-États-Unis; sécurité, santé publique et protection civile. Irwin Cotler est actuellement conseiller juridique international auprès du blogueur saoudien Raif Badawi. Il a récemment fondé le Centre Raoul Wallenberg pour les droits de l'homme.
An enduring lesson from the Rwandan genocide -- not unlike the Holocaust -- is that it occurred not only because of the machinery of death, but because of state-sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide. Indeed, as the Supreme Court of Canada recognized, and as echoed by the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda, the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers -- it began with words. As the jurisprudence of the Rwandan tribunals demonstrates, these acts of genocide were preceded by -- and anchored in -- the state-orchestrated demonization and dehumanization of the minority Tutsi populations.
04/07/2014 07:35 EDT
Thus, as the world prepares to gather in Russia in the Olympic spirit of unity and fellowship, those Russians who have been and still are victimized and persecuted by their own government must be front-of-mind. Indeed, their cause -- and that of Sergei Magnitksy -- must continue to burn brightly even after the extinguishing of Sochi's Olympic flame.
02/06/2014 06:10 EST
In his response to an article in which I am quoted about the victims' surcharge, Peter MacKay's unfounded -- if not preposterous -- assertion that I would rather see money in the hands of criminals than victims ignores the merits of the debate, let alone what I actually said.
12/12/2013 05:38 EST
The Quebec Association of Health and Social Service Institutions has reported that none of its members have ever had any problem with staff who wear religious apparel, and the Bouchard-Taylor Commission found -- after examining 900 briefs and 13 academic studies -- that the supposed crisis of religious accommodation was largely a "crisis of perception."
11/19/2013 12:12 EST
Amidst this hope there remains cause for concern given the Iranian regime's longstanding "3-D" negotiating strategy: denial, deception and delay. While the change in Iranian leadership may be seen as a sign of progress, it should be recalled that newly-elected President Hassan Rouhani had himself boasted about this strategy in earlier negotiations.
11/07/2013 05:26 EST
Quebec's Human Rights Commission has taken the highly unusual step of commenting on a government proposal, delivering one of the most forceful rebukes yet to the Parti Québécois' Charter of Quebec Values. According to the Commission, the values charter would represent "a clear break" with Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
10/18/2013 05:57 EDT
Negotiations about Iran's nuclear program are set to resume this week in Geneva between the P5 + 1 countries (USA, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) and the new Iranian leadership -- arguably the most important diplomatic encounter in a decade. If a new round of negotiations is to effectively roll back the Iranian nuclear threat -- rather than create another "calm environment" enabling increased nuclear activity -- there are a series of specific undertakings that Iran must be called upon to do and prove it is doing. These undertakings are as follows.
10/15/2013 12:13 EDT
The nomination of Judge Marc Nadon has raised important questions about the process used to select justices for the Supreme Court of Canada. Indeed, his appointment has led to charges of the politicization of the judiciary in the media, with some Canadians, rightly, wondering how our nomination process works.
10/02/2013 05:40 EDT
What follows is a human rights index -- an inventory of serious human rights abuses and the corresponding actions required -- to turn Iran from a republic of fear to what Rouhani himself called a free Iran. Indeed, the queries below serve as a litmus test for the authenticity of Rouhani's commitment to justice and human rights.
09/24/2013 03:50 EDT
As expected, the provincial government's proposed Charter of Quebec Values contains a highly problematic ban on religious symbols or attire for all public sector employees. The Charter's supporters argue that it is necessary to protect the religious neutrality of the Quebec state, but that argument is based on a number of faulty premises, such as: The state cannot be religiously neutral if public employees wear religious items; religious identity can be "turned off" during business hours; religious symbols in the workplace undermine gender equality and that certain Catholic symbols in public institutions are cultural or historical, but faith-based accessories worn by public employees are religious.
09/13/2013 05:41 EDT
It is critical that the case be made -- and understood -- that Syrians needed our help prior to this most recent chemical weapons attack, and need it even more so now. Indeed, Obama may have to bear criticism that he should have acted earlier given the nature of atrocities committed thus far by the Assad regime.
09/11/2013 12:15 EDT
I am proud to say that I was present in Washington on August 28, 1963. We all stood rapt with attention as King told of his dream of an America where his four little children would one day live in a nation where they would not be judged "by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character."
08/31/2013 01:48 EDT
The international community has not only failed to live up to its responsibility to protect civilians from mass atrocity crimes but its very inaction has encouraged escalating criminality by the Assad regime. With the crossing of the red line on chemical weapons use refocusing international attention on Syria, we risk losing credibility -- and more Syrians risk losing their lives -- should we not start now taking meaningful action to protect civilians in Syria. To that end, it is critically important that any intervention adhere to the requirements of international law.
08/30/2013 05:29 EDT
The so-called "charter of values" being contemplated by our provincial government would make a mockery of the free and open society that many of Quebec's nationalist leaders have been promoting for decades. It would force religious Quebecers "into the closet", and send the message that religious adherence is something to be ashamed of. Moreover, if religious symbols are barred from the public sphere, they and those who wear them will be rendered even more foreign and separate from the majority. Far from encouraging integration, therefore, such a ban would reinforce divisions based on religious affiliation.
08/23/2013 05:22 EDT
In February 2012, amidst the then unfolding horror in Syria, British journalist Marie Colvin summed it up in one final poignant and painful dispatch before she herself was murdered in the assault on Homs: "In Baba Amr. Sickening. Cannot understand how the world can stand by... Feeling helpless... No one here can understand how the international community can let this happen."
07/22/2013 12:41 EDT
Bulgarian authorities have confirmed and have transmitted evidence of Hezbollah terrorist complicity to European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels next Monday to determine whether Hezbollah should be designated as a terrorist organization.
07/20/2013 07:52 EDT
Regrettably, the Government's approach to Bill C-54, the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act -- and to the entire question of mentally ill accused -- has been a paragon of needlessly divisive legislating. The bill in question was proposed in response to several recent high-profile cases in which individuals were found not criminally responsible (NCR) of serious violent offences on account of mental disorder. Perhaps it would not have been possible to craft a bill that victims and mental health and legal professionals all agree will improve the NCR system and enhance public safety. However, it is clear that the Government did not even try.
06/27/2013 05:43 EDT
So I ask: How can the government champion one bill that promotes corporate accountability abroad while simultaneously opposing another, when both have the capacity to positively impact the way our companies conduct business? I cannot reconcile this disparity easily. Perhaps it lies with the simple fact that C-474 is not a Conservative bill.
06/20/2013 12:14 EDT
Iranians overwhelmingly elected a "moderate" cleric, Hassan Rowhani, as President, an outcome that has been hailed as a harbinger of positive change. Rowhani is probably not as moderate as his campaign speeches suggest, and Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei remains the repressive autocrat he has always been. Yet, the new Iranian President has clearly been successful by reflecting the democratic sensibilities of the population, while the Ayatollah desires to legitimate the aging theocratic regime; perhaps both will begin to see the benefits of a softer tone. But will a change in tone presage a change in substance?
06/16/2013 09:52 EDT
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