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Irwin Cotler, MP

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Attack in Ottawa cannot silence voice of the people

Posted on October 24, 2014 | No Comments

(As published in The Toronto Star)

In 1951, my father took me on my first-ever visit to Parliament Hill. As we arrived at Centre Block, he turned and said to me, in a tone of reverence and awe that I will never forget, “Son, this is vox populi, the voice of the people.”

It was a teaching that has remained with me, despite the mockery and cynicism that such a comment might elicit today. On that same trip, we also visited the Supreme Court, which my father – a lawyer – called the pillar of our constitution, as well as the National War Memorial, which underscored the importance of remembrance.

Wednesday’s abhorrent attack and murder of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, and the subsequent events in the Parliamentary precinct, revived for me that memory and feeling of reverence for Parliament and our national institutions. It was an attack on the seat and symbol of our constitutional democracy, on the place and preserve of the making of our laws, and on the rule of law.

Moreover, when I visited the War Memorial yesterday morning in the aftermath of the attack, I recalled my father’s lessons about the importance of memory and the duty of remembrance, and the enduring respect we owe those like Cpl. Cirillo – and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was killed during another attack earlier this week in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec – who stand on guard for us.

Parliament and the surrounding area is where the business of the nation is conducted, not only by legislators and parliamentary staff, but also by Canadians and others who come to meet with legislators, or to demonstrate on the Hill. It welcomes tourists, school groups and foreign dignitaries; it hosts commemorations and celebrations; it is a repository of our national history and memory; and it features monuments to great Canadians of the past, the War Memorial chief among them. Regardless of the specific motivations of the assailant, the symbolism of Wednesday’s attack is thus unmistakable.

Among the questions to be answered are: How did the gunman, after shooting the soldier at the cenotaph, manage to enter Parliament? What was the motivation and objective of the assailant? Are the events in Ottawa connected in any way to the recent attack in Quebec? Is there a terrorist dimension to this reprehensible violence? Was the assailant among the individuals who have been under national security surveillance?

The answers to these and other questions will be critical as we develop a response to this week’s events, both in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, and as we consider how to prevent such acts in the future.

While we often hear about the need to strike a balance between protecting Canadians from attack and protecting individual freedoms, we must remember that these are not mutually exclusive objectives or opposite ends of a spectrum. Rather, an appropriate and effective strategy must view security and rights not as concepts in conflict, but as values that are inextricably linked.

At the same time as measures to combat violence must comport with the rule of law and adhere to the principles of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, attacks such as those we experienced this week are themselves an assault on our fundamental rights to life, liberty and security of the person.

When Parliament resumed its activities yesterday, I was encouraged to hear variants of this idea from all sides of the House. The prime minister said that “we will be vigilant, but we will not run scared; we will be prudent, but we will not panic”; Thomas Mulcair proclaimed that this week’s attacks “hardened our resolve,” but that we should not “be driven by fear”; and Justin Trudeau spoke of the need to bring to bear “the full force of our laws” even as we remain “a country of open minds, open arms, and open hearts.”

As evidenced by this unity of message, I believe that this week’s condemnable acts will only enhance our concern and respect for Parliament, deepen our fidelity to the rule of law and to the making of our laws, and unite parliamentarians and Canadians across party lines in common cause, in defence of our democracy, our security and our shared values.

In other words, the voice of the people will continue to be heard.

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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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

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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

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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

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