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Irwin Cotler, MP

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CANADIAN MP IRWIN COTLER JOINED AMERICAN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND SENATORS, JEWISH COMMUNITY LEADERS, IN SOLIDARITY RALLY FOR ISRAEL – AND FOR PEACE – IN WASHINGTON TODAY

Posted on July 17, 2014 | No Comments

CANADIAN MP IRWIN COTLER JOINED AMERICAN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND SENATORS, JEWISH COMMUNITY LEADERS, IN SOLIDARITY RALLY FOR ISRAEL – AND FOR PEACE – IN WASHINGTON TODAY

Cotler told the rally that Hamas is not just a terrorist government engaged in ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity in targeting the Israeli civilian population, though that would be horrific enough. It is a unique – and evil – manifestation of genocidal antisemitism. These are not words that I use lightly or easily. But there are no other words to describe the advocacy of the most horrific of crimes – namely genocide – embedded in the most virulent of hatreds, namely antisemitism.

There is no moral equivalence between a terrorist entity like Hamas  that intentionally targets civilians with the objective of killing as many as possible – though thankfully the Iron Dome prevents this – and a state like Israel – which has not only the right, but the obligation to defend its citizens – and seeks to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza.

Clearly the death of any innocent Palestinian or Israeli is a tragedy but there is a fundamental moral and legal distinction between those who seek – and advocate – the killing of Jews wherever they are and those who are forced to defend themselves against these heinous acts.

I have always said that I come to the support not simply because it is a Jewish cause but because – with all its necessary imperfections – because it is a just cause. If it is a just cause then it deserves the support of all men and women of goodwill who seek justice and peace.

STATEMENT OF THE HON. IRWIN COTLER ON THE MURDER OF THREE ISRAELI TEENS

Posted on June 30, 2014 | No Comments

Montreal – June 30, 2014 – The Hon. Irwin Cotler today issued the following statement:

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the despicable murder of the three abducted Israeli teens, Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrah and Gilad Shaer. I was in Israel at the time of their abduction, shared the country’s anxiety and angst, and spoke at a community rally in Toronto upon my return.

I extend my deepest condolences to their loved ones, and to the people of Israel, who have been engaged in ongoing prayer vigils, and I trust that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

May the families and friends of Naftali, Eyal, and Gilad be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem, and may their memory serve as a blessing for us all.”

Peter MacKay’s excuses about female judges ring hollow

Posted on June 26, 2014 | No Comments

(As published in The Gazette)

In both his initial comments about the underrepresentation of women in the judiciary, and in subsequent efforts to defend his remarks, Justice Minister Peter MacKay attempted to deflect blame onto law schools, onto the advisory committees that vet judicial candidates and onto women themselves. These attempted deflections, however, are undermined by the facts. And in any event, the minister and his government should be less engaged in finger-pointing, and more actively engaged in advancing the cause of gender parity on the bench.

In the House of Commons, MacKay has sought to clarify his position by asserting that it is not only the government, but law schools and law societies that play “an important role” in bringing more women into the legal profession and, ultimately, the judiciary. This is true, but the insinuation that the lack of female judges can be explained by a lack of female law students and lawyers is demonstrably false.

In the law faculty at McGill University, where I have had the privilege of teaching a great many bright and motivated women, women have made up more than half of all students every year since 1994-95. The one exception was 1997-98, when women were 49.2 per cent of the student body. Nationwide, according to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, women comprised more than 60 per cent of students in social and behavioural sciences and law, a figure virtually unchanged since 2000. Clearly, therefore, the underrepresentation of women on the bench is not due to a paucity of women entering the profession.

Similarly dubious is the minister’s attempt to mitigate his own responsibility for judicial appointments by claiming that the government merely follows “the recommendation of the 17 judicial advisory committees across the country,” because women are severely under-represented on these committees themselves. Currently, the committees in B.C., Saskatchewan, and western and southern Ontario are made up entirely of men. In Quebec, two of 15 committee members are women; in each of the Greater Toronto Area and Newfoundland and Labrador, one of seven; and in Nova Scotia, one of six.

What is more, the federal government is directly implicated in this state of affairs, as it names more than a third of committee members. Indeed, of the 46 current committee members who were named by the government, all but nine are men.

Finally, as for the minister’s assertion that too few women are applying to be judges — in his view, because “women have a greater bond with their children” — there are no available statistics to support his claim. Indeed, even if the bonding theory were correct, where the data does exist, it demonstrates the opposite. For example, in Ontario, from 2010 to 2012, 53 per cent of applicants were women, and there is no reason to believe that federal numbers are significantly different.

MacKay insists that judicial appointments “are based on one criteria and one criteria only, and that is merit and judicial excellence.” Yet, while merit must clearly be a prerequisite, there is no dearth of meritorious women. Moreover, as a whole, the judiciary cannot be truly excellent if it does not reflect the society it is entrusted to judge.

As the Supreme Court has said, judges “have been shaped by, and have gained insight from, their different experiences,” and these “differing experiences appropriately assist in their decision-making process.” Moreover, Canadians are more apt to have confidence in our legal system if judges share their variety of experiences and backgrounds.

As for merit, I do not recall having had any difficulty finding meritorious women to name to the Supreme Court when I was justice minister from 2003 to 2006.

Indeed, I was proud to appoint Justices Rosalie Abella and Louise Charron, such that, at the time, Canada had the most gender-equitable Supreme Court in the world. Over the last eight years, however, the Conservatives have made seven Supreme Court appointments — including Marc Nadon — all but one of whom were men.

As such, the minister cannot credibly absolve his government of responsibility, and I encourage him to start bringing forth solutions instead of disclaimers. He can and should lead the charge to make Canada’s judiciary more representative of our population by naming more women to the bench, as well as more aboriginal Canadians and members of other minority groups.

The excellence of our justice system depends on it.

DECLARATION OF THE HONOURABLE IRWIN COTLER ON THE PASSING OF PROFESSOR RODERICK A. MacDONALD

Posted on June 17, 2014 | No Comments

Montreal  – June 17, 2014 – The Honorable Irwin Cotler today issued the following statement: “I have been saddened to learn of the passing of Roderick […]

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STATEMENT OF THE HONOURABLE IRWIN COTLER ON THE PASSING OF FORMER CÔTE SAINT-LUC MAYOR BERNARD LANG, Z”L

Posted on June 17, 2014 | No Comments

Montreal - June 17, 2014 – The Honorable Irwin Cotler today issued the following statement: “I am deeply saddened by the passing of Mayor Bernard Lang, z’l, […]

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Turning back the clock on appointments to top court

Posted on June 10, 2014 | No Comments

(As published in the Toronto Star) With the appointment of Justice Clément Gascon to the Supreme Court of Canada, the Conservative government has turned back the […]

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Statement in response to the death of Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar

Posted on June 6, 2014 | No Comments

The Hon. Irwin Cotler today issued the following statement in response to the death of Canadian cardiologist Mehdi Ali Qamar: “I offer my sincere condolences to […]

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Question on the Order Paper about the Supreme Court appointment process

Posted on June 6, 2014 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler recently submitted the following Question on the Order Paper. The government has 45 days to respond. Q-5912 — June 5, 2014 — Mr. Cotler […]

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Notice of Motion for the Production of Papers

Posted on June 4, 2014 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler recently introduced the following motion in the House in relation to the government’s new prostitution legislation: P-18 — June 5, 2014 — Mr. Cotler […]

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Order Paper Question – Q-543

Posted on June 4, 2014 | No Comments

Q-5432 — June 3, 2014  — Mr. Cotler (Mount Royal) — With respect to the appointment of Justice Clément Gascon to the Supreme Court of Canada: […]

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