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Irwin Cotler

Chair of Raoul Wallenberg Human Rights Centre, Former Minister of Justice/Attorney General of Canada

Irwin Cotler is Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and longtime Parliamentarian.

An international human rights lawyer, Professor Cotler has served as Counsel to prisoners of conscience including Andrei Sakharov & Nathan Sharansky (former Soviet Union), Nelson Mandela (South Africa), Jacobo Timmerman (Latin America), Prof. Saad Eddin Ibrahim (Egypt) and he was Chair of the International Commission of Inquiry into the Fate and Whereabouts of Raoul Wallenberg. He is a Member of the International Legal Team of Chinese Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo, and serves as international legal counsel to imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, imprisoned Venezuelan democratic opposition leader Leopoldo López, and imprisoned Baha'i leadership in Iran. A feature article on him in Canada’s national magazine – Maclean’s – referred to him as “Counsel for the Oppressed”, while the Oslo Freedom Forum characterized him as “Freedom’s Counsel.”
Conservative Robocalls Game is Shutterstock

Conservative Robocalls Game is Tired

The non-answer I received from the government yesterday in Question Period regarding its pattern of "reprehensible" (the Speaker's characterization) electoral behaviour -- and failure to take responsibility for it -- arguably sets a new bar for avoidance and obfuscation on the part of the Conservatives.
02/29/2012 12:36 EST
Gay Marriage? Yes. Fair Divorces? Getty

Gay Marriage? Yes. Fair Divorces? No.

Last week the federal government introduced C-32, the Civil Marriage of Non-Residents Act, prompted by the same-sex divorce case of a lesbian couple. While the proposal makes it even clearer that such couples are validly married and always were, it establishes different divorce procedures for same-sex couples in a way that is highly problematic.
02/27/2012 03:26 EST
Government's Charter Violations? Let Me Count the

Government's Charter Violations? Let Me Count the Ways

Recently the Ontario Superior Court ruled that a mandatory minimum sentence imposed against a first time offender violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Yet this decision is but the latest in a growing list of instances where the judiciary has found the Harper government's law and policy to contravene the Charter while ignoring the rule of law.
02/22/2012 05:19 EST
How to Punish the Innocent at Maximum Getty

How to Punish the Innocent at Maximum Cost

Mandatory minimums do not make anyone safer, though Conservatives insist on adding them to the crime bill. It is not as though criminals Google the potential consequence of an offence before committing it.
02/15/2012 11:10 EST
Cheap Shots Ruined Gun Registry YouTube

Cheap Shots Ruined Gun Registry Debate

Earlier this week the House had an opportunity for civilized and informed debate, yet missed the mark entirely. Beyond the conflating the issues of abolishing the registry and deleting the data, the debate demeaned itself with its vilifying rhetoric when MP Larry Miller made a reference to Hitler.
02/09/2012 03:53 EST
Tories Tread Dangerously Near the Death alamy

Tories Tread Dangerously Near the Death Penalty

The recent incendiary comments from a Senator about the death penalty reflects an otherwise disturbing trend among Conservatives regarding their approach to capital punishment. Since they came to power in 2006, Canada has not been as steadfast in its traditional abolitionist point of view, either at home or abroad.
02/08/2012 04:54 EST
Nuclear Iran: Genocide in the Getty Images

Nuclear Iran: Genocide in the Making

We are witnessing yet again another state-sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide, whose epicentre is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran, which denies the Nazi Holocaust as it incites a Middle Eastern one.
02/03/2012 06:12 EST
Government's via Reuters

Government's "Fix" for Gay Marriage? Just Support It

Until the Government briefly refused to recognize a same-sex marriage, its position had been that gay marriages are valid. The only thing that needs to be "fixed" is that a court decree should be sought making plain that this couple -- and by extension others similarly situated -- are in fact validly married.
02/02/2012 03:04 EST
Tories' Deaf Ears Delay Justice for Terror

Tories' Deaf Ears Delay Justice for Terror Victims

With Parliament's resumption this week, the Senate will consider the Conservative omnibus crime bill, C-10. In particular, amendments by the Government are expected as early as today to correct a mistake the Conservatives made in the House, a mistake which could have been avoided had the Government paid attention.
02/01/2012 11:13 EST
How Long Will We Let the Killing Go

How Long Will We Let the Killing Go On?

While the Arab League has suspended Syria and adopted unprecedented sanctions against the Assad regime -- the killing continues. Yet, after all this brutality, we still do not have a protective UN Security Council resolution.
01/23/2012 02:47 EST
Where Does a Canadian Degree Get You in Iran? In AP

Where Does a Canadian Degree Get You in Iran? In Prison

In the latest of a long list of crimes perpetrated against the Iranian Baha'i community, several graduates of Canadian universities have been detained and imprisoned for their involvement with the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education. Simply put, the persecution and prosecution of these Baha'i is a case-study of the systematic if not systemic character of Iranian injustice.
01/18/2012 04:10 EST
Remembering Raoul

Remembering Raoul Wallenberg

Wallenberg -- a Swedish non-Jew who saved some 100,000 Jews during the Holocaust -- confronted the Nazi killing machine in Hungary and showed that one person can make a difference; that one person can resist; and that one person can prevail over radical evil.
01/17/2012 03:50 EST
Government Has Trouble Vowing to Gay Getty Images

Government Has Trouble Vowing to Gay Marriage

On Friday, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson declared that the government viewed same-sex unions as valid, but blamed the situation on the previous Liberal government. But the minister's contention simply does not stand up to the facts.
01/13/2012 04:51 EST
What We Can Do to Stop the Sudanese AP

What We Can Do to Stop the Sudanese Genocide

It is beyond the pale that the international community continues to engage in "business as usual" with the Khartoum regime, dispatching a series of envoys with baskets of "carrots" rather than combating the impunity inherent in this triangular assault and its resultant atrocity crimes. If not us, who? If not now, when?
12/28/2011 02:58 EST
Bring Home Henk

Bring Home Henk Tepper

Absent formal charges, Canada should not acquiesce in Tepper's detention in Beirut. Why are we tip-toeing around a Government bound-up with a designated terrorist entity under Canadian law and whose own dealings appear replete with money-laundering operations?
12/21/2011 03:13 EST
Havel Was the Ultimate Getty

Havel Was the Ultimate Humanist

While the world is mourning the loss of a hero to all humanity, it behooves us to recall his fundamental moral courage and commitment. In his words, "The only lost cause is one we give up on before we enter the struggle." Indeed, as the tributes upon his death attest, Vaclav Havel's influence in Europe stretched far beyond Czech borders.
12/20/2011 06:25 EST
A Tale of Two Crime AFP/Getty Images

A Tale of Two Crime Bills

The one common feature in the omnibus crime legislation and long-gun registry is that both ignore, marginalize, and mischaracterize the evidence. Indeed, the Government's justifications for both bills are arguably polar opposites, much like the two cities of which Dickens writes in his seminal work.
12/19/2011 04:42 EST
Why 'Reprehensible' is Not CP

Why 'Reprehensible' is Not Enough

When constituents of mine began reporting that they were receiving telephone calls asking if they would support the Conservative candidate in the pending or imminent by-election, I rose in the House to assert that the practice breached my privileges. But somehow the Speaker of the House was powerless to provide a remedy. No Canadian voter should be confronted with false and misleading calls and expected to sort out truth from rumour.
12/13/2011 11:38 EST
Maikel Nabil Sanad Is Egypt's Natan Mina Nader

Maikel Nabil Sanad Is Egypt's Natan Sharansky

Maikel Nabil Sanad became the first political prisoner in the post-Mubarak era for exercising his rights. Today he is on the 112th day of a hunger strike and his life is on the line. Nabil possesses that intangible moral courage and commitment to a cause that is unyielding.
12/12/2011 03:13 EST
A Sad Day for Criminal Getty

A Sad Day for Criminal Justice

It is clear that as a result of the omnibus crime bill we will have more crime, less justice, skyrocketing costs, fewer rehabilitation opportunities for offenders, less protection and voice for the victims, and less protection for society. This is a sad day for Canadian criminal justice.
12/06/2011 10:29 EST