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Irwin Cotler, MP

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COTLER MARKS NATIONAL DAY OF REMEMBRANCE AND ACTION ON MASS ATROCITIES, ISRAEL INDEPENDENCE DAY IN HOUSE OF COMMONS

Posted on April 24, 2015 | No Comments

Both days coincided yesterday with the birthday of former Canadian Prime Minister and Nobel Peace laureate Lester B. Pearson

MP Irwin Cotler, Liberal Critic for Rights and Freedoms and International Justice, today rose in the House of Commons to highlight both the fifth anniversary of the creation of a Canadian National Day of Remembrance and Action on Mass Atrocities, and the 67th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel.

As both days coincided this year, Cotler addressed the connection between the Holocaust and the establishment of the Jewish State, saying:

“It is sometimes said that if there had not been a Holocaust, there would not have been a State of Israel. But it is the other way around: If there had been an Israel, there might not have been a Holocaust or the horrors of Jewish history.”

Cotler went on to note that yesterday was also the birthday of former Canadian Prime Minister and Nobel Peace laureate Lester B. Pearson, in whose memory the National Day was established, and who was an early advocate for the creation of a Jewish state.

Cotler Introduces Bill to Protect Judicial Independence

Posted on April 24, 2015 | No Comments

Legislation would allow judges to consider particular circumstances at sentencing, notwithstanding mandatory minimums

MP Irwin Cotler today introduced a Private Member’s Bill (C-669) that would allow judges to vary mandated sentences, such as mandatory minimums, when doing so is deemed “just and reasonable.” The legislation, known as the Judicial Independence Act, would require judges to provide written reasons when derogating from the prescribed sentence.

Cotler cited last week’s Supreme Court ruling, in which Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin noted that “empirical evidence suggests that mandatory minimum sentences do not, in fact, deter crimes.”

Instead, noted Cotler, mandatory minimums lead to prison overcrowding, disproportionately impact Aboriginals and other minority groups, increase costs for taxpayers, may violate the Charter, and are, as one American study put it, “a recipe for recidivism.”

“Everyone in this House seeks to prevent crime and keep Canadians safe,” said Cotler, former Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada. “Sometimes, however, measures intended to achieve these laudable objectives turn out to be ineffective, counterproductive, and unjust. Such is unfortunately the case with the government’s ever-increasing reliance on mandatory minimum sentencing provisions. It is in the interest of both justice and public safety that the sentence fit the particularities of the crime.”

Order Paper Question Q-1093: Bill C-51

Posted on April 22, 2015 | No Comments

Question No. 1093–

Hon. Irwin Cotler:

With regard to Bill C-51, An Act to Enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to Amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to Make Related and Consequential Amendments to Other Acts: (a) what studies, reports, or other documents were consulted by the government as part of the process of developing the legislation; (b) what groups or individuals were consulted by the government as part of the process of developing the legislation; (c) when did each consultation in (a) and (b) occur; (d) who carried out each consultation in (a) and (b); (e) in what way was each group or individual in (b) consulted; (f) by what process was the legislation reviewed to ascertain whether any of its provisions are inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; (g) what officials at the Department of Justice participated in the process in (f); (h) what groups or individuals outside the Department of Justice participated in the process in (f); (i) what changes were made to the legislation as a result of the process in (f); (j) did the government seek opinions from any group or individual outside the Department of Justice about whether any of legislation’s provisions are inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; (k) from what groups or individuals did the government seek the opinions in (j); (l) when did the government seek each opinion in (j); (m) when did the government receive each opinion in (j); (n) what was the cost of each opinion in (j); (o) who in the government determined that the legislation is consistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; (p) on what basis did the individual or individuals in (o) make that determination; (q) has the government evaluated the likelihood of any of the legislation’s provisions being challenged before the courts; (r) what is the result of the evaluation in (q); (s) on what basis has the government made the evaluation in (q); (t) has the government evaluated the likelihood of any of the legislation’s provisions being struck down by the courts; (u) what is the result of the evaluation in (t); (v) on what basis has the government made the evaluation in (t); (w) how much money has been or will be set aside to cover the cost of litigation related to challenges of the legislation before the courts; (x) how did the government determine the amount in (w); (y) when were instructions given regarding the drafting of this legislation; (z) how long did those drafting the legislation have to consider any constitutional impacts of the legislation; (aa) were any constitutional concerns raised during the legislative drafting process and, if so, (i) what were these concerns, (ii) how were they addressed, (iii) by whom were they addressed, (iv) when were they addressed; (bb) apart from any analysis pursuant to section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act, in what ways did the government assess the constitutionality of this bill; (cc) in what ways did the Minister of Justice undertake to verify this bill’s constitutionality; (dd) were any outside legal opinions sought relative to this legislation; (ee) in total, how many employees reviewed this legislation with a specific mandate to ascertain its constitutional compliance; (ff) what are the policy rationales for this legislation; (gg) in what ways did the government consider whether alternative policies might attain the objectives in (ff); (hh) what impact will this legislation have on the provinces and territories; (ii) if any provinces or territories were consulted, (i) when were they consulted, (ii) how were they consulted, (iii) in furtherance of what objective were they consulted; (jj) how much will this legislation cost to implement; (kk) do resources exist to implement this legislation effectively and fully; (ll) what is the basis for the government’s response in (kk); (mm) by what means will this legislation be monitored and evaluated for its effectiveness; (nn) by what means and how often will this legislation be reviewed; and (oo) by what metrics will the government determine whether this legislation, once enacted, has made Canadians safer?

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

Mr. Speaker, the international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada. Canadians are being targeted by jihadi terrorists simply because they hate our society and the values it represents. The Government of Canada rejects the argument that every time security is discussed, somehow freedoms are threatened. Canadians understand that there can be no liberty without security. Canadians rightly expect the government to protect both, and that is precisely what the anti-terrorism act, 2015 would do. The fundamental fact is that police and national security agencies are working to protect Canadian rights and freedoms. It is not they who seek to take away freedoms, but rather the jihadi terrorists. Canada will not sit on the sidelines, as some would do, and is instead joining the international coalition in the fight against the so-called Islamic State.

With regard to (f) and (cc), pursuant to the Department of Justice Act, section 4.1, the Minister of Justice is required to examine every government bill presented to Parliament in order to ascertain whether any of its provisions are inconsistent with the purposes or provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If the minister believes that the legislation is inconsistent, it must be reported to Parliament.

Proposed government legislation is reviewed for charter and other legal risks throughout the policy development and legislative drafting processes. The process of examining government legislation for charter compliance is dynamic and ongoing. Section 4.1 is only one part of a broader process that involves three distinct components: advisory, certification and reporting. The advisory component takes place throughout the policy development process, up to and including the introduction of legislation.

With regard to (nn), the Government of Canada believes that independent, expert, non-partisan oversight of national security agencies is a better model than political intervention in the process. Further, the key powers of the anti-terrorism act, 2015 would be subject to judicial review and judicial authorization.

On Charter’s Anniversary, More Conservative Contempt

Posted on April 17, 2015 | No Comments

(as published in The Montreal Gazette) Thirty-three years ago, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms officially became part of Canada’s constitution, a landmark event later referred […]

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Statement on Yom HaShoah

Posted on April 15, 2015 | No Comments

The Honorable Irwin Cotler, Liberal Party Critic for Rights and Freedoms and International Justice, today issued the following statement on Yom HaShoah: “Yom HaShoah occurs this […]

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Order Paper Question Q-1046: Administrative segregation

Posted on April 13, 2015 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler recently received a response from the government to his written question about the use of administrative segregation, or solitary confinement, in federal prisons. It […]

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Order Paper Question Q-1045: SIRC Appointments

Posted on April 13, 2015 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler recently received a response from the government to his written question about appointments to the Security Intelligence Review Committee. It is available here in […]

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Order Paper Question Q-1044: Government Assisted Refugees

Posted on April 13, 2015 | No Comments

Prof. Cotler recently received a response from the government to his written question about Government Assisted Refugees. It is available here in English and French.

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How the Liberals will fight terror

Posted on April 10, 2015 | No Comments

(As originally published in the National Post) Wayne Easter and Irwin Cotler, National Post Early in the debate about Bill C-51, the government’s omnibus anti-terror legislation, […]

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Petition: Public Dental Care

Posted on April 2, 2015 | No Comments

Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls upon the government and the House to examine the possibility of public dental care […]

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