Skip to main content

Irwin Cotler, MP

Search irwincotler.liberal.ca

COTLER INTRODUCES BILL TO AMEND STATE IMMUNITY ACT

Posted on October 20, 2014 | No Comments

Legislation would end state immunity for torture identified by Supreme Court in Kazemi case

Ottawa – October 20, 2014 – MP Irwin Cotler today introduced a Private Member’s Bill (C-632) that would amend the State Immunity Act to allow Canadians to pursue civil remedies against states that commit genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, or torture. The bill would notably address the immunity for torture identified by the Supreme Court in its recent ruling barring the son of Zahra Kazemi, who was tortured and killed by Iranian authorities in 2003, from seeking redress against Iran.

In its ruling, the Court wrote: “Parliament has the ability to change the current state of the law on exceptions to state immunity, just as it did in the case of terrorism, and allow those in situations like Mr. Hashemi and his mother’s estate to seek redress in Canadian courts. Parliament has simply chosen not to do it yet.”

Accordingly, in introducing the bill, Cotler called on Parliament to exercise its legislative authority to ensure that foreign states that commit heinous crimes against Canadians are not protected by Canadian law.

Said Cotler, “It is absurd that Canadians can use Canadian courts to enforce commercial contracts with foreign states, but the doors of justice are closed on them when they seek compensation for heinous acts, such as torture. We need legislation to address the evils of international crimes that are now shielded by Canadian law, to remove the state immunity that operates to shield the perpetrators of such crimes, and to allow Canadian victims to secure justice.”

Cotler invited the Government to adopt the bill as its own, saying, “I look forward to working with Members of all parties to move forward with this long-overdue legislation.”

In 2009, with the support of Members of all parties, Cotler introduced a similar bill (C-483) that never came to a vote.

Question on the Order Paper – Upcoming Supreme Court Appointment

Posted on October 8, 2014 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler has submitted the following Question on the Order Paper about the upcoming Supreme Court Appointment. The Government has 45 days to respond.

Q-7422 — October 7, 2014 — Mr. Cotler (Mount Royal) — With regard to the process for filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court of Canada that will be created by the retirement of Justice Louis Lebel: (a) when did the government learn of Justice Lebel’s intention to retire on November 30, 2014; (b) how did the government learn of Justice Lebel’s intention to retire on November 30, 2014; (c) what steps has the government taken to find a replacement for Justice Lebel; (d) when were each of the steps in (c) taken; (e) what individuals, agencies, organizations, or other governments has the government consulted with regard to developing a process to find Justice Lebel’s replacement; (f) what individuals, agencies, organizations, or other governments has the government consulted with regard to choosing Justice Lebel’s replacement; (g) when did the consultations in (e) occur; (h) when did the consultations in (f) occur; (i) what individuals, agencies, organizations, or other governments will the government consult with regard to developing a process to find Justice Lebel’s replacement; (j) what individuals, agencies, organizations, or other governments will the government consult with regard to choosing Justice Lebel’s replacement; (k) when will the consultations in (i) occur; (l) when will the consultations in (j) occur; (m) what date has the government set by which Justice Lebel’s replacement must be nominated; (n) what date has the government set by which Justice Lebel’s replacement must be appointed; (o) by what date does the government intend to nominate Justice Lebel’s replacement; (p) by what date does the government intend to appoint Justice Lebel’s replacement; (q) when were the dates in (m) to (p) set; (r) who set the dates in (m) to (p); (s) based on what factors were the dates in (m) to (p) set; (t) if no dates have been set regarding the nomination or appointment of Justice Lebel’s replacement, why have no dates been set; (u) has the government examined the consequences, legal and otherwise, of allowing a Supreme Court seat to be vacant; (v) what are the results of the examination in (u); (w) when did the examination in (u) begin; (x) when did the examination in (u) end; (y) who carried out the examination in (u); (z) if the government has not carried out the examination in (u), why has it not done so; (aa) will the government examine the consequences, legal and otherwise, of allowing a Supreme Court seat to be vacant; (bb) if the government will not carry out the examination in (aa), why will it not do so; (cc) based on what criteria has the government evaluated candidates to replace Justice Lebel, or, if no evaluations have occurred thus far, based on what criteria will the government evaluate candidates to replace Justice Lebel; (dd) how do the criteria in (cc) differ from those used to evaluate candidates in the appointment processes that led to the appointments of (i) Justice Wagner, (ii) Justice Nadon, (iii) Justice Gascon; (ee) what materials have been sought from the candidates to replace Justice Lebel; (ff) what materials will be sought from the candidates to replace Justice Lebel; (gg) how do the materials in (ee) and (ff) differ from those sought from candidates in the processes that led to the appointments of (i) Justice Wagner, (ii) Justice Nadon, (iii) Justice Gascon; (hh) if the materials in (ee) and (ff) differ from those sought from candidates in the processes that led to the appointments of Justices Wagner, Nadon, and Gascon, (i) why were changes made, (ii) who decided to make these changes, (iii) when was that decision made; (ii) when did the “reconsideration” of the appointment process referred to in the government’s response to Q-543 begin; (jj) who made the decision to reconsider the Supreme Court appointment process; (kk) on what date was the decision in (jj) made; (ll) what has the reconsideration of the Supreme Court appointment process entailed; (mm) who has been involved in the reconsideration of the Supreme Court appointment process; (nn) what has been the role of each of the individuals in (mm) in the reconsideration of the Supreme Court appointment process; (oo) what individuals, agencies, organizations, or other governments have been consulted as part of the reconsideration of the Supreme Court appointment process; (pp) were parliamentarians consulted as part of the reconsideration process, and if so, whom; (qq) what meetings have occurred as part of the reconsideration of the Supreme Court appointment process, (i) on what dates, (ii) with whom present, (iii) with what goals, (iv) with what outcomes; (rr) what documents, memos, briefing notes, or other materials have been created as part of the reconsideration of the Supreme Court appointment process; (ss) what are the dates of creation and file or reference numbers of the materials in (rr); (tt) who developed the materials in (rr); (uu) to whom have the materials in (rr) been distributed; (vv) what research, reports, books, articles, or other reference materials has the government consulted as part of the reconsideration of the Supreme Court appointment process; (ww) what are the objectives of the reconsideration of the Supreme Court appointment process; (xx) when did the reconsideration of the Supreme Court appointment process end, or if it is ongoing, when does the government intend to end it; (yy) if the reconsideration of the Supreme Court appointment process is ongoing, (i) what will the remainder of the reconsideration entail, (ii) who will be involved in the remainder of the reconisderation, (iii) what will be the role of each of the individuals, agencies, organizations, and governments involved, (iv) when will parliamentarians be consulted, (v) in what way will parliamentarians be consulted; (zz) when did the government last engage in a reconsideration of the Supreme Court appointment process; (aaa) in what way is the current reconsideration similar to or different from the last reconsideration; (bbb) what are the results of the reconsideration of the Supreme Court appointment process; (ccc) when will the results of the reconsideration of the Supreme Court appointment process be made public; (ddd) what has been the cost of the reconsideration of the Supreme Court appointment process; (eee) what is the breakdown of the cost of the reconsideration of the Supreme Court appointment process thus far; (fff) if the reconsideration is ongoing, (i) what will be the total cost of the reconsideration, (ii) what is the breakdown of the cost; (ggg) what process has been or will be used to evaluate candidates and make an appointment to replace Justice Lebel; (hhh) in what way have parliamentarians been involved, or in what way will they be involved, in the process to replace Justice Lebel; (iii) what goals have been served by parliamentary involvement in previous Supreme Court appointment processes; (jjj) how will the goals in (iii) be served in the process to replace Justice Lebel; (kkk) in what way have members of the legal community been involved, or in what way will they be involved, in the process to replace Justice Lebel; (lll) other than parliamentarians and members of the legal community, who has been or will be involved in the process to replace Justice Lebel, and in what way; (mmm) what steps has the government taken, or what steps will the government take, to ensure that Justice Lebel’s replacement is eligible to fill one of the seats reserved for Quebec pursuant to section 6 of the Supreme Court Act; (nnn) who has carried out, or who will carry out, the legal analysis to ensure that Justice Lebel’s replacement is eligible to fill one of the seats reserved for Quebec pursuant to section 6 of the Supreme Court Act; (ooo) when was the legal analysis in (nnn) carried out; (ppp) what has been the cost of the analysis in (nnn); (qqq) what is the breakdown of the cost of the analysis in (nnn); (rrr) what has been, or what will be, the cost of the process to replace Justice Lebel; (sss) what is the breakdown of the cost in (rrr); (ttt) in what way will the process to replace Justice Lebel be (i) transparent, (ii) accountable, (iii) inclusive; and (uuu) will the process used for the appointment of Justice Lebel’s replacement be used for future appointments?

My principled abstention from the ISIL vote

Posted on October 7, 2014 | No Comments

Today, October 7, 2014, the Hon. Irwin Cotler issued the following statement:

“For the last several weeks, Members of Parliament and the Canadians we represent have been seized with the genocidal incitement and mass atrocities committed by the violent extremist group known as ISIL. I know that my colleagues on both sides of the House have been horrified by ISIL’s brutality and depravity, and take seriously the question of how best to combat it.

The motion put forward by the Government in this regard recommends a combat mission as a central part of an international coalition response that I have been advocating for some time. Indeed, I have been a long-standing proponent – together with my Liberal colleagues – of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, which states, simply put, that where there are war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, or genocide, and the government of the region in question is unable or unwilling to take action – or worse, is the author of the criminality – the international community has a responsibility to intervene to protect targeted innocent civilians.

Admittedly, R2P is not limited to military action. Together with my colleagues in the Liberal Party, I have long proposed a series of non-military initiatives to come to the aid of civilians in Syria and Iraq, including enhanced humanitarian assistance, protection for victims of sexual violence, and criminal prosecution of the perpetrators of international crimes, including Syrian President Assad. Yet, when confronted by radical evil – by the genocidal slaughter of innocents – force may be required. Indeed, it is because of international inaction three years ago against Syria’s criminal Assad regime that radical jihadists – including ISIL – have been able to take root, develop, and engage in a campaign of abhorrent brutality.

At the same time, the Government’s motion lacks clarity about what the strategic nature and limits of Canada’s mission will be. It mentions airstrike capability as only one element of a larger contribution of unnamed Canadian military assets; it does not specify where these assets will be deployed; and it has been less clear than warranted about the mission’s objectives, costs, command, and rules of engagement.

In particular – and this is reason enough for me not to support the motion – I am deeply disturbed by the Prime Minister’s statement that Canada would require the approval of the criminal Assad regime to carry out operations in Syria. To allow the perpetrator of war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, to green-light Canadian intervention is to turn R2P on its head. Assad should be a criminal defendant, not a coalition partner.

Moreover, the Government has neither briefed nor consulted with the leaders of the opposition, nor has it shared more fulsome information about the mission that would have helped Parliamentarians to make an informed choice.

Accordingly, on principled grounds, I will abstain from voting on the motion regarding Canada’s combat role in the fight against ISIL. As such, I am in my riding this evening to honour a longstanding commitment.

I have the greatest respect for my fellow Members of Parliament, including my colleagues in the Liberal Party of Canada and our leader Justin Trudeau, who are bringing their perspectives and experiences to bear on this critical issue. We all support the members of the Canadian armed forces who will participate in this mission, and we share the hope that those threatened by ISIL’s abhorrent crimes – including the Yazidis, Christians, Kurds, Muslims, members of the Syrian opposition, and others whom I have met – will yet achieve the security and freedom they yearn for and deserve.”

Statement on the Town of Hampstead’s Centenary

Posted on September 29, 2014 | No Comments

Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise to salute the Town of Hampstead, which is in the midst of celebrating its 100th birthday […]

Read more

The Conservatives have watered down the Supreme Court appointments process

Posted on September 19, 2014 | No Comments

The following letter to the editor appeared in The Globe and Mail: Your Thursday editorial (Process, Abused – Sept. 18) gave Prime Minister Stephen Harper credit […]

Read more

Debate on Canada’s role in the fight against ISIS

Posted on September 17, 2014 | No Comments

Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to join in this important debate on Canada’s military role in Iraq. We are engaging […]

Read more

Question on the Order Paper Q-511

Posted on September 17, 2014 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler recently submitted a written question to the Government about telecommunications companies sharing subscriber information. The question and answer can be found here: 8555-412-511

Read more

Question on the Order Paper Q-591

Posted on September 17, 2014 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler recently submitted a written question to the Government about Supreme Court appointments. The question and the Government’s answer can be found here: 8555-412-591

Read more

Question on the Order Paper Q-543

Posted on September 17, 2014 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler recently submitted a written question to the Government on Supreme Court appointments. The question and the government’s answer can be found here: 8555-412-543

Read more

Question on the Order Paper Q-497

Posted on September 17, 2014 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler recently asked the Government a written question about Supreme Court appointments. The question and the Government’s response can be found here: 8555-412-497

Read more