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Irwin Cotler, MP

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Order Paper Question Q-1230 – War Crimes Program

Posted on July 3, 2015 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler recently received this response from the government to his written question about Canada’s War Crimes Program.

How Canada led the way on same-sex marriage

Posted on July 2, 2015 | No Comments

(As published in the Toronto Star)

When the House of Commons passed the Civil Marriage Act 10 years ago this week, Canada was only the fourth country in the world – and the first outside Europe – to legalize same-sex marriage. Now, with last week’s Supreme Court ruling in the United States, and with the successful referendum in Ireland this spring, same-sex marriage is recognized in more than 20 countries, and that number will continue to grow.

As Minister of Justice in 2005, I was proud to introduce the Civil Marriage Act, legislation anchored in two fundamental Charter principles: the right of every Canadian to equality without discrimination, and the right to religious freedom. It protected the rights of same-sex couples without removing rights from anyone else, and without subordinating one right to another.

For three reasons in particular, it is remarkable to think back to the debate that was taking place in Canada on this issue a decade ago.

First, the debate’s occasional acrimony can be difficult to remember or fathom today. Indeed, I said at the time that if we enact this legislation, we will see in 10 years that the sky will not fall.

Second, the debate was a unique and compelling constitutional conversation. The legislation was the result of a four-way conversation between Parliament, the people, the courts and the government.

It was a parliamentary initiative – the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – that enshrined in our Constitution the rights to equality and to freedom of religion, and that vested the courts with the authority to protect those rights. It was individuals and groups who exercised the remedies guaranteed them by the Charter to assert their rights, successfully arguing against the opposite-sex restriction on civil marriage before courts in eight provinces and one territory. And it was the government that referred the matter to the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.

All of which leads to the third remarkable feature of the same-sex marriage debate: it was a wide-ranging, inclusive – if heated – national discussion on an issue of national importance. Such discussions are remarkable today for their rarity.

It was, for example, out of respect for the plurality of options being argued that, following the lower and appellate court rulings, I asked the Supreme Court for a decision not only on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, but also on the possibility of civil unions as a valid option.

Once the court ruled unanimously that same-sex marriage was not only permitted by the Charter, but in fact flowed from it, and that civil unions would not suffice, I tabled legislation that would receive extensive scrutiny in the House of Commons, in the Senate, and throughout Canada.

Fully 28 groups and individuals argued the full range of opinions on this matter before the Supreme Court. A special committee struck by the House of Commons to examine the Civil Marriage Act met 21 times and heard from 72 witnesses, including representatives of 35 different organizations.

The Senate committee studying the bill held an additional six meetings and heard from 33 witnesses.

Moreover, the Canadian public at large was very much involved. Canadians considered the matter from all angles in their communities, voiced support and raised concerns with public officials, and attended demonstrations both in favour of and against the legislation.

By the time the Civil Marriage Act took effect in July 2005, all aspects of the issue had been debated in depth and in public. Generally, this national conversation was intense but respectful, and undeniably democratic.

With regard to matters of such significance, and which give rise to such passions, this kind of inclusive and engaged process is essential not only to ensure that, in the end, the chosen legislative approach is thoroughly vetted – and an appropriate balance achieved – but also to help bestow democratic legitimacy upon the legislation, even among those Canadians who disagree with it.

Regrettably, not all major public policy issues in Canada are addressed in this way. Too often, as we have seen recently, bills are rushed through Parliament with limited debate, critics are demeaned and attacked, and certain significant measures are buried in omnibus legislation.

It is all the more important, therefore, to mark the 10-year anniversary of full marriage equality in this country both by celebrating this instance of Canadian leadership in matters of equality, freedom, and justice and by remembering the virtues of debating serious issues in a manner becoming of a vibrant and open democracy.

Order Paper Question Q-1229 – Reintegration of offenders

Posted on June 22, 2015 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler submitted a written question to the government about cuts to programs that facilitate the safe reintegration of offenders following their release from prison. Please find below the full question and response.

Because House of Commons’ Standing Order 39 (1) specifically prohibits the government from including opinion or debate in responses to written questions, Prof. Cotler asked the Speaker to find that the government’s answer contravenes the rules. The House rose for the summer before the Speaker delivered his judgement.

Question No. 1229–
Hon. Irwin Cotler:

     With regard to funding for programs that facilitate the reintegration of offenders into communities following incarceration: (a) for each Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) site in Canada, what funding did the government provide in each of the last ten years, broken down by department or agency providing the funding; (b) for each CoSA site in Canada, what funding will the government provide this year and in each of the next five years, broken down by department or agency providing the funding; (c) what funding has the government provided to CoSA Canada since the group’s inception in 2014, broken down by department or agency providing the funding; (d) what funding will the government provide to CoSA Canada this year and in each of the next five years, broken down by department or agency providing the funding; (e) what program evaluations of CoSA has the government conducted in the last five years; (f) for each program evaluation in (e), (i) when was it conducted, (ii) who conducted it, (iii) what was its objective, (iv) what was its outcome, (v) how much did it cost; (g) based on what factors did the government decide to cut the funding for CoSA that had been provided by Correctional Service Canada (CSC); (h) based on what factors did the government decide not to renew funding for CoSA as part of the National Demonstration Project funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre; (i) regarding the decision in (g), (i) who made it, (ii) when was it made, (iii) what groups or individuals were consulted, (iv) what ministers or ministers’ offices were involved in the decision-making process; (j) regarding the decision in (h), (i) who made it, (ii) when was it made, (iii) what groups or individuals were consulted, (iv) what ministers or ministers’ offices were involved in the decision-making process; (k) what ministers or ministers’ offices have been involved in other decisions regarding funding for CoSA; (l) in the last two years, what reports, briefing materials, briefing notes, memoranda, dossiers, dockets, assessments, presentations or other documents have been created regarding funding for CoSA; (m) for each document in (l), what is the (i) date, (ii) title, (iii) internal tracking number; (n) for each meeting held in the last two years regarding funding for CoSA, (i) when was it held, (ii) where was it held, (iii) who was present, (iv) what was the objective, (v) what was the outcome; (o) what objectives was the government seeking to achieve by providing funding for CoSA through CSC prior to March 31, 2015; (p) how will the objectives in (o) be achieved following the cut to CSC funding for CoSA effective March 31, 2015; (q) what objectives was the government seeking to achieve by funding CoSA as part of the National Demonstration Project funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre; (r) how will the objectives in (q) be achieved following the termination of funding for CoSA as part of the National Demonstration Project funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre; (s) what evaluations has the government conducted of the impact of the cut to CSC funding for CoSA; (t) for each evaluation in (s), (i) when was it conducted, (ii) who conducted it, (iii) what was its objective, (iv) what was its outcome, (v) how much did it cost; (u) what evaluations has the government conducted of the impact of the termination of funding for CoSA as part of the National Demonstration Project funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre; (v) for each evaluation in (u), (i) when was it conducted, (ii) who conducted it, (iii) what was its objective, (iv) what was its outcome, (v) how much did it cost; (w) what programs other than CoSA that aim to facilitate the reintegration of offenders into communities after their warrant expiry dates does the government run or fund; (x) for each program in (w), (i) what funding did the government provide for each of the last ten years, (ii) what funding will the government provide this year, (iii) what funding will the government provide in each of the next five years; (y) what evaluations has the government conducted in the last five years regarding the reintegration of offenders into communities following their warrant expiry dates; (z) what evaluations has the government conducted regarding the impact of CoSA and the programs in (w) on the reintegration of offenders into communities following their warrant expiry dates; (aa) for each evaluation in (y) and (z), (i) when was it conducted, (ii) who conducted it, (iii) what was its objective, (iv) what was its outcome, (v) how much did it cost; (bb) what evaluations has the government conducted regarding the impact of CoSA and the programs in (w) on recidivism rates; and (cc) for each evaluation in (bb), (i) when was it conducted, (ii) who conducted it, (iii) what was its objective, (iv) what was its outcome, (v) how much did it cost?

Hon. Steven Blaney (Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, CPC):

    Mr. Speaker, the government believes that dangerous sex offenders belong behind bars.

That is why the government has put forward a number of important measures to ensure our streets and communities are safe for our children, such as establishing the high- risk child sex offender database and cracking down on convicted sex offenders who seek to travel.

CSC has a contract with the Mennonite Central Committee of Ontario for the provision of CoSA services in southern Ontario, for $325,000 per year, to March 31, 2018.

The government is always looking for efficient ways to improve the safety of our streets and communities while respecting taxpayers.

 

Order Paper Question Q-1217 – Supreme Court Appointments

Posted on June 22, 2015 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler recently received an answer from the government to his written question about the process for replacing Justice Marshall Rothstein on the Supreme Court. The […]

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Cotler Introduces Bill C-701: the Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act

Posted on June 19, 2015 | No Comments

Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-701, An Act to establish the Office of the Commissioner for Children and Young […]

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Statement on Human Rights in Iran

Posted on June 19, 2015 | No Comments

Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Iran tragically executes more people per capita than any other country in the world. Moreover, Iran is engaged […]

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Petition about Seyamek Naderi

Posted on June 18, 2015 | No Comments

Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the third petition is signed by Canadians who are concerned about the situation of Seyamak Naderi, an Iranian […]

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Petition for an apology to Dr. David Shugar

Posted on June 18, 2015 | No Comments

Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the second petition is on behalf of Canadians who wish the government to apologize to Dr. David Shugar […]

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Petition about human rights violations in Venezuela

Posted on June 18, 2015 | No Comments

Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to present three separate petitions today. The first is a petition on behalf […]

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Question of Privilege: Order Paper Question 1229

Posted on June 18, 2015 | No Comments

Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege out of respect for the integrity of Parliament, as you yourself […]

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