Skip to main content

Irwin Cotler, MP

Search irwincotler.liberal.ca

Cotler Highlights Global Day of Action for Iranian Baha’i Community

Posted on February 27, 2015 | No Comments

Education Is Not a Crime campaign underscores exclusion of Baha’i from Iranian universities

Ottawa – February 27, 2015 – On the eve of today’s first global Education Is Not a Crime Day, MP Irwin Cotler rose in the House yesterday to call for an end to the ban on university education for the Baha’i religious minority in Iran. Cotler, Liberal critic for rights and freedoms and international justice, called the ban “a case study of the persecution and prosecution of the Bahá’i.”

Members of the Baha’i community have been prohibited from teaching or studying in Iran’s universities for over 30 years. Moreover, they are subject to a constant threat of raids, arrests, detention, and imprisonment, as well as state-sanctioned incitement to hatred and unprosecuted violent attacks.

“The Iranian government has made being a Baha’i a crime,” Cotler said, “but we can change that. We can give voice to their rights.”

Education Is Not a Crime Day has been launched by Iranian-Canadian filmmaker Maziar Bahari, along with Nobel laureates including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Iranian lawyer and activist Shirin Ebadi. Bahari’s film To Light a Candle, which was screened in Ottawa this week, examines the repression of the Baha’i and the community’s response to it, including the establishment of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education.

Human Rights Subcommittee Unanimously Calls for Release of Raif Badawi

Posted on February 26, 2015 | No Comments

Motion introduced by Irwin Cotler calls for imprisoned Saudi blogger to be reunited with family in Canada

Ottawa – February 26, 2015 – The House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Human Rights today unanimously passed a motion calling on Saudi Arabia to “end the corporal punishment of Raif Badawi, repeal his sentence, release him, and permit him to reunite with his family in Canada.” The motion was introduced by MP Irwin Cotler, Liberal critic for rights and freedoms and international justice, who is also serving as Mr. Badawi’s international legal counsel. Cotler characterized the motion as “a matter of urgency, given the pain and plight of Badawi’s torture and detention.”

Detained by Saudi Arabia since 2012, Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for establishing an online forum and exercising his right to free expression. Saudi Arabia administered the first 50 lashes on January 9, but has postponed subsequent lashings. Badawi’s wife and children have taken refuge in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

The motion further calls for the release of Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, and asks the government of Canada “to continue to use all available means” to secure the release of Badawi and al-Khair, and “to bring about the reunification of Raif Badawi with his wife and children in Canada.”

Full text of motion:

Whereas Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression;

Whereas Saudi Arabia has a lively community of online activists and the highest number of Twitter users in the Middle East;

Whereas flogging as punishment is strictly prohibited under international human rights law, including the United Nations Convention against Torture, which Saudi Arabia has ratified;

Whereas, on June 17, 2012, Raif Badawi, a Saudi human rights activist and blogger, was arrested on a charge of “insulting Islam” through electronic channels and brought to court on several other charges;

Whereas in November 2014, Raif Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison, 1000 lashes, a fine of one million riyals, and an additional ten-year prohibition on leaving Saudi Arabia;

Whereas on January 9, 2015, Raif Badawi was subjected to the first 50 lashes of his sentence;

Whereas Reporters without Borders awarded Raif Badawi its 2014 Netizen Prize for Press Freedom;

Whereas the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy awarded Raif Badawi its 2015 Courage Award;

Whereas Raif Badawi has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize;
That the Subcommittee:

Call on Saudi authorities to end the corporal punishment of Raif Badawi, repeal his sentence, release him, and permit him to reunite with his family in Canada;

Call on Saudi authorities release Raif Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, and repeal his sentence;

Reaffirm that freedom of expression, including online expression, is an essential foundation for democracy, stability and social development, and therefore strongly condemn the harassment and imprisonment by Saudi Arabia of journalists and others for exercising their right to free speech;

Call on the Government of Canada to continue to use all available means to urge Saudi Arabia to release Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair, and to bring about the reunification of Raif Badawi with his wife and children in Canada.

Statement on the Baha’i Community in Iran

Posted on February 26, 2015 | No Comments

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is the global day of action for the Education is Not a Crime campaign to dramatize the painful reality that education is a crime for the Bahá’i community in Iran, a case study of the persecution and prosecution of the Bahá’i, Iran’s largest religious minority, who are treated as non-citizens devoid of fundamental rights, including being arrested for their beliefs at an alarming pace; violent attacks on the Bahá’i continuing to go unpunished amidst a culture of impunity; state-sanctioned incitement to hatred of the Bahá’i dramatically increasing, by tenfold in 2014 alone; and seven Bahá’i leaders continuing to suffer arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and detention, in which the trial of the seven is a trial of the Bahá’i community as a whole.

The Iranian government has made being a Baha’i a crime, but we can change that. We can give voice to their rights. We can tell the Iranian government, as Bishop Tutu put it, that banning the Bahá’i is hurting Iran and the Iranian people. As former Iranian Canadian political prisoner Maziar Bahari put it, and the slogan for this global campaign reads, we can light a candle on their behalf.

Motion on Anti-Semitism

Posted on February 25, 2015 | No Comments

Today, Mr. Cotler introduced the following motion, which received the unanimous consent of the House: That, in the opinion of the House: a) there has been, […]

Read more

Take-note Debate on the Rise in Anti-Semitism

Posted on February 24, 2015 | No Comments

Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): Mr. Chair, last month I had the privilege of participating in the first ever United Nations General Assembly forum in […]

Read more

Debate on Bill C-51 (Anti-Terrorism Act 2015)

Posted on February 23, 2015 | No Comments

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-51, An Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel […]

Read more

Statement on United Nations Anti-Semitism Forum

Posted on February 20, 2015 | No Comments

Mr. Speaker, recently I addressed the first-ever United Nations General Assembly meeting on anti-Semitism, which took place, symbolically and significantly, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It […]

Read more

Petition: Unconditional Release of Raif Badawi

Posted on February 20, 2015 | No Comments

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today signed by many Canadians from the Sherbrooke area. The petitioners are calling on the Government of […]

Read more

Question Period: Unconditional Release of Raif Badawi

Posted on February 20, 2015 | No Comments

Mr. Speaker, the imprisonment and cruel and inhumane treatment of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi continues to be met with outrage in Canada and around the world. […]

Read more

Press Release: Cotler Tables Petitions Calling for Measures to End the Cruel Practice of Forced Organ Harvesting by China

Posted on February 20, 2015 | No Comments

For immediate release COTLER TABLES PETITIONS CALLING FOR MEASURES TO END THE CRUEL PRACTICE OF FORCED ORGAN HARVESTING BY CHINA Ottawa – February 20, 2015 – […]

Read more