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Irwin Cotler, MP

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Raoul Wallenberg Day is a time to remember the power of an individual to confront evil

Posted on January 17, 2015 | No Comments

(As published in the Montreal Gazette)

It has been a dark January.

Thus far, 2015 has brought tragic and infuriating terrorism, anti-Semitism and assaults on liberty in France; a car bomb in Yemen that killed and injured dozens; and the massacre of thousands in Nigeria by Boko Haram. This is in addition to continuing mass atrocities and humanitarian crises in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Central Africa, Sudan and elsewhere, and it comes on the heels of the deadly hostage-taking in Sydney, and the barbarous terrorist attack on a school in Pakistan that left over 100 dead, most of them children.

At times like these, the evil in the world can feel overwhelming, and it can be tempting to cede to despair, aggravating the problem of the international community as bystander to atrocity and injustice. How appropriate, then, that Saturday, Jan. 17 is Raoul Wallenberg Day.

Prior to Wallenberg’s arrival as a Swedish diplomat in Budapest in July 1944, some 430,000 Hungarian Jews had been deported to Auschwitz in only 10 weeks – the fastest, cruelest, and most efficient mass murders of the Nazi genocide. Yet Wallenberg rescued more Hungarian Jews than any single government, notably saving 20,000 by issuing Schutzpasses, documents conferring diplomatic immunity. He even went to the trains as mass deportations were underway, distributing Schutzpasses to people otherwise consigned to death.

Wallenberg saved an additional 32,000 by establishing dozens of safe houses in a diplomatic zone protected by neutral legations. He organized hospitals, soup kitchens and childcare centres, and when thousands of Jews were sent on a 200-kilometre death march in November 1944, he followed alongside, distributing improvised Schutzpasses, as well as food and medical supplies.

Finally, with the Nazis preparing to liquidate the Budapest ghetto, Wallenberg warned Nazi generals that they would be brought to justice, if not executed, for their crimes. They desisted, and 70,000 more Jews were saved.

Regrettably, 70 years ago, on Jan. 17, 1945, Wallenberg was arrested by the Soviets, who had entered Hungary as liberators. He disappeared into the Gulag, and his fate remains unknown.

Initial Soviet claims that he died in custody in July 1947 have since been contradicted by investigations including the one I chaired in 1990, which included Nobel peace laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, Soviet scholar Mikhail Chelnov, former Israeli attorney general Gideon Hauser, and Wallenberg’s brother, Guy von Dardel, who was the driving force behind our commission’s establishment. In 1985, the U.S. Federal Court found the evidence “incontrovertible” that Wallenberg lived past 1947, “compelling” that he was alive in the 1960s, and “credible” that he lived into the 1980s, but precisely what became of him remains a mystery.

Still, Wallenberg’s legacy endures, reminding us of the power of an individual to confront evil and transform history.

Wallenbergwas named Canada’s first honorary citizen 30 years ago. He has been granted the same distinction in Hungary, Australia, Israel and the United States, and there are monuments to him in cities around the world.

By intervening to save civilians, Wallenberg personified what today we call the Responsibility to Protect; by giving out food and medical supplies, he provided what today we call humanitarian relief and assistance; and by issuing his warning to Nazi generals, he prefigured the Nuremberg principles and what today we call international criminal law.

At a time when it seems as though each day brings a new heart-wrenching catastrophe, let us be inspired by Raoul Wallenberg, who came face to face with the horrors of Nazism, and was moved not to despair, but to action.

Irwin Cotler is the Liberal MP for Mount Royal, former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, and emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University. In 2014, he was awarded the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Medal.

Statement on Raif Badawi

Posted on January 9, 2015 | No Comments

I am saddened and outraged by Saudi Arabia’s treatment of blogger Raif Badawi, who suffered 50 lashes earlier today as part of his sentence for creating an online forum and ‘insulting Islam.’ Detained since 2012, Mr. Badawi has been sentenced to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes, which he is due to receive over the next several months.

My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Badawi, as well as with his wife, Ensaf Haider, and their children in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Mr. Badawi’s cruel and torturous treatment, along with the absence of due process of law, makes a mockery of international norms. I call on the Saudi regime to release Mr. Badawi and to end the widespread repression of dissent, criminalization of free speech, and persecution of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia.

Order Paper Question – Extractive Sector Abroad

Posted on December 19, 2014 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler has submitted the following question about the role of Canadian diplomatic personnel regarding the operations of Canadian extractive companies abroad. The government’s response is due upon the return of the House on January 26, 2015.

Q-9292 — December 9, 2014 — Mr. Cotler (Mount Royal) — With regard to the role of Canadian diplomatic personnel in respect to the operations of Canadian extractive companies outside Canada: (a) what is this role; (b) what policies, guidelines, and directives govern this role; (c) for each of the policies, guidelines, and directives in (b), (i) when was it enacted, (ii) by whom was it enacted, (iii) what was its objective, (iv) has its objective been met, (v) how does the government determine whether its objective has been met, (vi) how was it communicated to Canadian diplomatic personnel, (vii) what former policy, guideline, or directive did it replace or modify; (d) in what ways do Canadian diplomatic personnel support the operations of Canadian extractive companies; (e) in what ways do Canadian diplomatic personnel facilitate the establishment of new operations, projects, or facilities by Canadian extractive companies; (f) in what ways do Canadian diplomatic personnel intervene in interactions between Canadian extractive companies and (i) local governments, (ii) local law enforcement, (iii) local civil society, (iv) local residents; (g) in what ways do Canadian diplomatic personnel seek to ensure compliance by Canadian extractive companies with (i) local laws and regulations, (ii) Canadian laws and regulations, (iii) international laws and regulations, (iv) local standards regarding human rights, (v) Canadian standards regarding human rights, (vi) international standards regarding human rights, (vii) local standards regarding environmental protection, (viii) Canadian standards regarding environmental protection, (ix) international standards regarding environmental protection; (h) in what ways do Canadian diplomatic personnel seek to reduce resistance to the operations of Canadian extractive companies on the part of (i) local governments, (ii) local civil society, (iii) local residents; (i) in what ways do Canadian diplomatic personnel help Canadian extractive companies reduce resistance to their operations on the part of (i) local governments, (ii) local civil society, (iii) local residents; (j) in what ways do Canadian diplomatic personnel seek to facilitate the operations of Canadian extractive companies by advocating for changes to local laws or regulations; (k) in what ways do Canadian diplomatic personnel seek to facilitate the operations of Canadian extractive companies by advocating against changes to local laws or regulations; (l) based on what factors do Canadian diplomatic missions evaluate requests from extractive companies for assistance or services, including services offered as part of the Global Markets Action Plan; (m) for each of the last five years, broken down by country where the diplomatic mission is located, how many requests for assistance or services have Canadian diplomatic missions received from Canadian extractive companies; (n) for each request in (m), (i) what company made the request, (ii) what assistance or service was sought by the company, (iii) what assistance or service was provided to the company, (iv) who evaluated the request, (v) if the request was not granted, on what grounds was it not granted, (vi) who provided the assistance or service, (vii) what was the cost of providing the assistance or service, (viii) what was the objective of providing the assistance or service, (ix) in what way was that objective achieved; (o) in what circumstances do Canadian diplomatic missions provide assistance or services, including services offered as part of the Global Markets Action Plan, to an extractive company without a request from that company; (p) for each of the last five years, broken down by country where the diplomatic mission is located, (i) what companies have received assistance or services from a Canadian diplomatic mission without making a request, (ii) what was the nature of that assistance or service, (iii) who made the decision to provide the assistance or service, (iv) who provided the assistance or service, (v) what was the cost of providing the assistance or service, (vi) what was the objective of providing the assistance or service, (vii) in what way was that objective achieved; (q) for each of the last five years, broken down by country, in what legal proceedings outside Canada involving Canadian extractive companies has Canada intervened; (r) for each intervention in (q), (i) what was the nature of the intervention, (ii) what was the objective of the intervention, (iii) in what way was the objective achieved, (iv) who made the decision to intervene, (v) who carried out the intervention, (vi) what outside counsel was retained, (vii) what is the breakdown of the cost of the intervention, (viii) what are the access or control numbers of any legal filings made by Canada; (s) based on what criteria do Canadian diplomatic personnel determine whether a Canadian extractive company is complying with Canada’s corporate social responsibility standards, particularly those standards set out in November 2014 in Doing Business the Canadian Way: A Strategy to Advance CSR in Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad; (t) how frequently do Canadian diplomatic personnel evaluate the compliance of Canadian companies with Canada’s corporate social responsibility standards; (u) what action do Canadian diplomatic personnel take when a company is found not to comply with Canada’s corporate social responsibility standards; (v) for each of the last five years, broken down by country in which the diplomatic mission is located, what extractive companies have been deemed in non-compliance with Canada’s corporate social responsibility standards; (w) for each company in (v), what action has been taken by Canadian diplomatic personnel to address the non-compliance; (x) what training do Canadian diplomatic personnel receive to ensure that they can advise and monitor Canadian extractive companies with respect to corporate social responsibility; (y) what assistance or services have Canadian diplomatic personnel provided to (i) Tahoe Resources in Guatemala, (ii) Nevsun Resources in Eritrea, (iii) Fortuna Silver in Mexico, (iv) Excellon Resources in Mexico, (v) IAMGOLD in Ecuador, (vi) Cornerstone Capital Resources in Ecuador, (vii) Kinross Gold Corporation in Ecuador, (viii) Lundin Mining in Ecuador, (ix) Barrick Gold in Chile, (x) Goldcorp in Chile, (xi) Yamana Gold in Argentina, (xii) Barrick Gold in Peru, (xiii) Candente Copper in Peru, (xiv) Bear Creek Mining in Peru, (xv) HudBay Minerals in Peru, (xvi) Eldorado Gold in Greece, (xvii) Esperanza Resources in Mexico, (xviii) TVI Pacific in the Philippines, (xix) Infinito Gold in Costa Rica, (xx) Blackfire Exploration in Mexico, (xxi) Skye Resources in Guatemala, (xxii) Glamis Gold in Guatemala; (z) for each instance in (y) of providing assistance or service, (i) what was the cost, (ii) what was the objective, (iii) in what way was the objective achieved, (iv) who made the decision to provide the assistance or service, (v) who provided the assistance or service; (aa) what lobbying or advocacy activities have Canadian diplomatic personnel undertaken with respect to (i) laws relating to the extractive sector in Guatemala, including Decree 22-2014, (ii) laws relating to the extractive sector in Ecuador, including Ley Orgánica Reformatoria a la Ley de Minería, a la Ley Reformatoria para la Equidad Tributaria en el Ecuador y a la Ley Orgánica de Régimen Tributario Interno in Ecuador, (iii) laws relating to the extractive sector in Honduras, including amendments to the Honduran General Mining Law; and (bb) for each instance of lobbying or advocacy in (aa), (i) what was the cost, (ii) what was the objective, (iii) in what way was the objective achieved, (iv) who made the decision to engage in lobbying or advocacy, (v) who carried out the lobbying or advocacy?

Question on the Order Paper – Federal Judicial Appointments

Posted on December 19, 2014 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler has submitted the following question about federal judicial appointments. The government’s response is due upon the return of the House on January 26, 2015. […]

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Question on the Order Paper – Permanent residence applications by dependent children

Posted on December 19, 2014 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler has submitted the following question about permanent residence applications by dependent children. The government’s response is due upon the return of Parliament on January […]

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Order Paper Question – Caregiver Program

Posted on December 19, 2014 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler has submitted the following question about changes to the Caregiver Program. The government’s response is due upon the return of Parliament on January 26, […]

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Liberal Party of Canada statement on Human Rights Day

Posted on December 10, 2014 | No Comments

OTTAWA – Liberal Party of Canada Rights, Freedoms, and International Justice Critic, Irwin Cotler, today issued the following statement on International Human Rights Day: “Today, we […]

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A transparent excuse for a lack of transparency

Posted on December 5, 2014 | No Comments

(As published in The Toronto Star) Last week, after the government filled a second consecutive Supreme Court vacancy using a closed, unaccountable approach, I rose in […]

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Statement on Jean Béliveau’s Passing

Posted on December 3, 2014 | No Comments

I was very saddened – like all Canadians – to learn of the passing of Jean Béliveau. I first met Jean when I was 11 years […]

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The dismantling of Supreme Court reform

Posted on November 28, 2014 | No Comments

On Thursday, the Conservative government named Suzanne Côté to replace Justice Louis Lebel, who will retire from the Supreme Court of Canada in coming days. Yet […]

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