Irwin Cotler: Pursuing Justice

By Andrew Cardozo & Dr. Maria Wallis

Cotler, Turner etc

1. More pictures: See April 1 post.
2. Article from Hill Times
3. Event Report by Dr. Maria Wallis

First published in the Hill Times


This human rights scholar and advocate of international note is both dedicated to a slate of human rights issues and is in high demand to speak and lecture all over the world.


PUBLISHED : Wednesday, April 13, 2016 12:00 AM

OTTAWA—“Where are they now?” is frequent question about former Parliamentarians.

The answer for Irwin Cotler is that he is founding chair of the new Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, based in Montreal but national and in fact and international in scope. And not surprising. This human rights scholar and advocate of international note is both hugely dedicated to a slate of human rights issues and in high demand to speak and lecture literally all over the world.

First elected in a byelection in 1999, Cotler worked on various Foreign Affairs and Human Rights committees and was justice and attorney general in Paul Martin’s government. He was a supremely qualified justice minister. But his work in human rights goes back to his youth. Having studied law, he was a political aide to John Turner when he was justice minister and was involved in various human rights causes through his academic career at McGill University.

Cotler’s new centre is an international consortium of parliamentarians, scholars, jurists, human rights defenders, community-based organizations and students working in “the pursuit of justice,” dedicated to Raoul Wallenberg’s humanitarian legacy.

Wallenberg, Canada’s first honorary citizen, inspired an all-party Human Rights Caucus in February, with the help of Irwin Cotler. The MPs are Liberals Anthony Housefather, Judy Sgro, Arif Varani; Conservatives James Bezan and Peter Kent, NDP MP Murray Rankin and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

Cotler was also the focus of a gala event hosted by the Pearson Centre, which I head, in Toronto on March 31 and which I hosted, to launch the centre’s “Pursuing Justice” project. Reflecting one of his favourite Jewish sayings, “justice, justice, thou shall pursue,” Cotler believes one must pursue justice justly. The event also served to raise awareness of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre.

A homecoming of sorts for justice pursuers and Cotler fans, the event saw a cast of the political and legal world. As one of the attendees, former Conservative minister John Baird noted, “there’s Olivia Chow, me, and everything in between.” The honorary chairs included former prime ministers John Turner, Kim Campbell, Jean Chrétien, and Paul Martin, with the event’s co-chairs being Ontario provincial politicians Sandra Pupatello and Monte Kwinter.

Federal ministers who showed up included his long-time friend Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr who was his former law student, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, and Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett.

In addition, there were several MPs: Bill Blair, Ali Ehsassi, Anthony Housefather, Michael Levitt, James Maloney, John McKay, Marco Mendicino, Rob Oliphant, Kyle Peterson, Yasmin Ratansi, Ruby Sahota, Ramesh Sangha, Francesco Sorbara and Arif Virani. Former Parliamentarians included Bob Rae, Gerry Weiner, Maria Minna and Barry Campbell. Other notables included Dalton McGuinty, Margaret McCain, Roy McMurtry, Dwight Duncan, Charles Harnick, Chris Bentley, and Israeli Ambassador Rafael Barak.

Provincial ministers present were Transport Minister Steven Del Duca, Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur, Innovation, Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Reza Moridi, and Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi.

Despite the serious issues at hand it was an evening of great appreciation, and affection for a leading Canadian human rights advocate.

Indira Naidoo-Harris, a former television broadcaster and now MPP, conducted a dialogue with Cotler. It began with an overview of some of his past human rights work for prisoners, such as Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and Natan Sharansky in the Soviet Union. Cotler’s work has gotten him expelled by repressive regimes, something he wears as a badge of honour.

Cotler is unmistakably positive and delighted about the tone of the new Trudeau government and spoke highly of the new Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. He addressed some of his important themes with Naidoo-Harris, including the primacy of the Charter of Rights and on the related matter he said, “women’s rights are human rights. And there are no human rights without women’s rights.”

One of his own high priorities continues to be the effects of repressive governments and the focus on political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in several countries around the world. He pointed to the Rwandan genocide and reminded the audience that that was an example of “the dangers of inaction in the face of injustice.”

He addressed the urgent need to improve the status of indigenous peoples, repeated his 7Rs for the justice system which he instituted when he was minister: recognition, respect, redress, over-representation (in the criminal justice system), responsiveness by governments, and finally reconciliation which can lead to the renewal of the nation-to-nation relationship.

He also urged the new government to return to a more open system of consultation and review of the appointment of the next justice on the Supreme Court and to fill the vacancy left by retiring Thomas Cromwell. The system he instituted for the Martin government was disbanded by the Harper government which he feels is a disservice to the high court and openness in government.

After 16 years in Parliament, Cotler has launched his new career, although it’s a lot like his old career, in Parliament and before that: pursuing justice in Canada and abroad! He’s tilting at unpopular windmills and never backing down.

Andrew Cardozo is president of the Pearson Centre and is an adjunct professor at Carleton University.

The Hill Times


Irwin Cotler’s Pursuit of Justice: A Life, Legacy, and Continuing Journey
By: Maria A. Wallis*
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recently said, “Canada is back.” All around the world, people are curious to see if and how Canada will resume its leading role on progressive issues. What role should Canada play in encouraging justice and progressive policy?
On March 31, 2016 the Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy explored such questions by holding a Gala in Toronto at the King Edward Hotel to officially launch one of its major initiatives, the Pursuing Justice Project, looking to encourage “thoughtful, liberal-minded debate and dialogue.” With Andrew Cardozo as President, this newly created Centre aims to create a policy environment through “substantive, evidence-based dialogue” to balance the desired goals of both economic success and social responsibility in Canada. The Centre is guided by a Board of Directors and a Board of Advisors that are representative of almost every region in Canada. (1)
The Gala was introduced by Co-Chairs of the Pursuing Justice Project, Sandra Pupatello, former Ontario Minister, and Monte Kwinter, MPP. Politicians from the federal and provincial governments, both past and present, were there to honour Irwin Cotler. Guests included John Turner, Carolyn Bennett, John Baird, Olivia Chow, Yasmin Ratansi, among others.
The Gala was a great success. Sandra Pupatello welcomed everyone and introduced Minister of Natural Resources, Jim Carr, who brought greetings from the federal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Provincial Minister Madeleine Meilleur conveyed greetings from the provincial government and the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne. Other speakers included John Turner, Carolyn Bennett, and a former student of Cotler, Federal Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna.
Then Pupatello introduced Indira Naidoo-Harris, the MPP who would serve as Moderator/interviewer for the night. Born in Durban, South Africa, Indira Naidoo-Harris’ first-hand experience of South Africa’s Apartheid system made her a good choice to introduce the keynote speaker of the night: the honourable Irwin Cotler, former member of the Canadian Parliament for Mount Royal.
It would be hard to imagine a better speaker upon the issues of the advancement of justice and human rights than Cotler, who has worked on such issues for over four decades. Elected to Parliament in 1999, Cotler served as Minister of Justice and Attorney General from 2003 to 2005. His greatest achievements in Canada include the Civil Marriage legislation for same-sex marriages, Canada’s first Anti-Trafficking Act, and the reformation of the Supreme Court appointment process.
When Jim Carr, Catherine McKenna, Paul Martin (by video link), and Carolyn Bennett spoke of Cotler and his “legacy of integrity”, he is spoken of as a person who stood up for what he believed in, a person of conscience, and a great teacher. Naidoo-Harris, who had interviewed Cotler a few times before in her previous role as a journalist, said: “I promise you this conversation will not disappoint.”
It did not.
When asked how he felt at that moment, Cotler replied that he was moved and made a point of highlighting a point from each of the previous speakers’ comments. He displayed his photographic memory, and loved to add his own special perspective. For example, Carolyn Bennett fondly recalled how Cotler was for a long time that only male parliamentarian in the federal women’s caucus. How he advocated for women by saying: “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.” Cotler replied that he had specifically also added after that line, “… and, there are no Human Rights without the Rights of Women.” Cotler immediately demonstrated his wealth of experience with his many stories of everyday happenings and key events over the years.
Naidoo-Harris began the interview/dialogue by asking him where it all started.
This prompted Cotler to recall his parents, and how often it felt like they were right there with him as he used the words they passed down to him, and through him, to us. His father taught him to value justice, saying: “The pursuit of justice is equal to all the other commandments combined.” His mother taught him: “If you want to pursue justice, you must feel injustice, and combat injustice. Otherwise the pursuit of justice remains a theoretical abstraction.” The pursuit of justice was anything but theoretical for Cotler. His life’s work is connected to some of the major Human Rights cases of the decade.
He continues this work to this day.
With his parents’ teachings to guide him, Cotler got involved in two of the greatest human right struggles of his time. He worked to free Natan Sharansky, who was imprisoned for advocating for the Soviet Jews’ Human Rights and Freedom to emigrate to Israel. Sharansky was also involved in Andrei Sahkharov’s human rights movement in the Soviet Union. (2) (3)
The second campaign was the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in Apartheid South Africa. Cotler has a strong belief ingrained by Jewish philosophy and faith that the release of political prisoners is such an overriding commandment that one is allowed to breach the Sabbath if you can bring about the release and liberation of a political prisoner.
Naidoo-Harris noted that MacLeans called Cotler “Counsel for the Oppressed” and asked what he learned from these campaigns that he could pass on to us. Cotler recalled Sharansky’s profound commitment to remembering. He quoted the writer, Milan Kundera: “The struggle of freedom against tyranny is the struggle of remembering against forgetting.” Inspired by Sharansky’s commitment to free other political prisoners, Cotler was willing to put his own life on the line.
At this point Cotler told the story of when he was summoned by Pik Botha, Minister in the Apartheid regime of South Africa. Botha pointed to a picture of Sharansky and demanded to know why Cotler was speaking for that communist Nelson Mandela. Cotler said because South Africa had a legal, institutionalized system of racism, and Mandala was fighting for democracy and human rights. Botha insisted that South Africa has a system that was a “democratic pluralism.” According to Cotler, this sounded like a refinement of the “separate but equal” line. Botha called him a brash fellow, and said he was free to travel anywhere in South Africa and then return to tell him of his impressions. When he returned to meet Botha, he said you are right. There is a democratic pluralism here, but only if you are white. For everyone else it is another situation completely. When Cotler went to look up Botha several years later, Botha said he had followed Cotler’s political trajectory. He said I know about you, but you do not know about me. During the last years of Apartheid, I was the first minister to call for the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. This, Cotler said, show us that everyone can be taught to pursue justice. This narrative gave us in the audience the chills knowing how each one of us can influence, in our own way, some other chain of events.
Next Cotler was asked to reflect on his time as Minister of Justice. He said he informed journalists at the very first scrum in Parliament, and felt his parents speaking through him, that he will be guided by three overarching principles—the pursuit of justice, the protection of equality, and the organizing principle of a just society.
He recalled a time when he was asked to meet with some aboriginal law students. They told him that they were not there merely as law students, but aboriginal law students who come with a past, a history, a heritage, with their own spirituality, with their own languages, and their own indigenous legal system that they have been dispossessed from. They spoke of pain as a people who did not know who they are, where they come from and what they aspire to be. Cotler had replied at the time that his government would try to understand that history, that pain, that experience. He was reminded at that time of a story where a student had said to a Rabbi, “I love you.” The Rabbi asked, “Do you know what hurts me?” The student said, “What does that have to do with loving you?” The Rabbi replied, “If you do not know what hurts me, you cannot love me.”
For Cotler this was a profound statement about human relationships. He then took the bold step to say that he understood this pain because of an awareness of his aboriginal language, Hebrew, and his spirituality. At this point, the students said they had expected just another government official, a white man, saying blah, blah, blah. Now we say, “Welcome from one aboriginal people to another.” Cotler urged all in the audience to speak to the authenticity of our identity. Cotler then proceeded to articulate what he said ought to be the Seven Rs of Aboriginal Justice—a priority on our Justice Agenda:

1. Recognition
2. Respect
3. Redress
4. Representation
5. Responsive
6. Reconciliation
7. Renewal
The first R, the Recognition of the Aboriginal People as the original inhabitants of Canada. Cotler specifically noted: “I am glad we paid the appropriate tribute this evening to where we are sitting.” (The evening had begun with the acknowledgment that we are occupying the traditional Indigenous territory of Mississauga of the New Credit First Nations.)
The second R, Respect for the Aboriginal Peoples’ distinguishable constitutional system set forth in section 25 and 35 of our Constitutional Act.
The third R, Redress for past injustices such as the Residential system, and the current plight of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
The fourth R goes in two ways, the over-representation of aboriginal people in the criminal justice system as inmates and victims, and the under-representation of aboriginal people as judges, law enforcement officers, and the like.
The fifth R, being Responsive to these issues as we learn from Aboriginal people.
The sixth R, if we do the first 5—Recognition, Respect, Redress, Representation, Responsiveness, this will lead to the 6th R, reconciliation, and then, the Seventh R, renewal of our people to people, nation to nation relationship with Aboriginal Peoples. At this point the audience burst into applause, as they have been doing do intermittently throughout this entire interview to acknowledge both Cotler’s passion, and the integrity of his words and actions. (4)
At this point Naidoo-Harris focused on a reflection of our past as a nation. Pointing out that Cotler mentioned at various points that our future is anchored in our past, that we talk of a “Just Society.” She asked Cotler to identify what, according to him, were the greatest influences, things that had the greatest impact, and what were some of the key issues as we look to the future?
Cotler was quick to respond arguing that the adoption of the constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has transformed not only our laws, but our lives. It is because of the Charter principles that we were able to pass the Civil Marriage Act and transform society. It also demonstrates the importance of Parliament.
Once again he remembered his dad’s lesson as he first showed him Parliament when he was 11 years old and said to him, in Latin, as he was a lawyer but this is the language he learned in university: “Son, this is the ‘Voice of the People.’” He urged people to remember that first and foremost we are all Parliamentarians. When he was elected, he was not only elected to just represent liberals in his riding, but all constituents in his riding.
Equally important for Cotler is the integrity and independence of the Judiciary. The Judiciary and the appointments process must be transparent, inclusive, representative, and accountable. As Federal Minister he said he was a temporary steward, but the judiciary goes on, and for that reason must be appointed according to merit and not partisanship. (5)
Naidoo-Harris reminded him next that Justin Trudeau had said that “Canada is back,” before going on to ask him about what role can Canada play in the world?
According to Cotler, Canada should pursue justice and human rights and make this ideal not just a priority but a principle and a policy. We are on the eve of the 22nd anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. What made it unspeakable is we knew but we did not act. We must look at the cause of war crimes, genocide: When the perpetuators are not capable or willing to act, then it is the responsibility of the international community to act. In Syria people said if we acted, it would encourage the Islamist radicals to get involved, the irony is that exactly what they said would happen if we acted, has happened because we did not act. There are dangers to standing idly by: “Thou shall not stand idly by when the blood of our brother is being shed.” We must work to advance the pursuit of justice.
Indira Naido-Harris was given word that she had a few more minutes so she launched into the next question. With the rise of Anti-Semitism, and the increase in Islamophobia, what role should Canada play in the Middle East?
Cotler shared the one regret he has in this area. When he was Justice Minister in the Paul Martin government, he was the first minister to visit the Middle East. He initiated the Middle East 4 peace initiative with Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority. Egypt and Jordan were included in this initiative because they had peace treaties with Israel. All four Justice Ministers agreed to a summit in Canada, and agreed to the principles of respect, right to independence, freedom from terrorism, and a 2 States, 2 Peoples Policy. But before this summit could be implemented, the Liberals lost the elections, and the project was dropped.
The final question of the night was about Cotler’s ‘retirement’: “Instead of taking up golf or fishing, you have set up the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. Tell us about this initiative.”
At this point Cotler joked that he did work as a caddy and got hit in the head twice, and though he loves fish, never did learn to fish. After a silent pause, he continued more seriously, that in 1944, 444,000 Hungarian Jews were sent to internment camps. With his arrival, Raoul Wallenberg saved 100,000 Jews in 6 months. He was inspired by Raoul Wallenberg’s humanitarian legacy. Defending political prisoners has taught him of its potential to transform society. Currently there are many political prisoners: examples are Saudi blogger Raif Badawi who gave expression to his right to Freedom of Expression, Venezuelan political prisoner, Leopoldo Lopez, Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Boroujerdi in Iran, and we have Black Lives Matter here, but in Mauritania, we have Black politician, Biram Dah Abeid, who advocated against slavery. The government adopted anti-slavery legislation, and also imprisoned Biram Dah Abeid. We can help by caring. Spouses do so much for the release of their partners. We too can become like spouses of political prisoners, and bring about their liberation. (6) (7)
Indira Naidoo-Harris concluded by thanking him for this discussion, exclaiming, “Amazing stories, an amazing life.”
Andrew Cardozo expressed his thanks by mentioning that he felt he was in the presence of greatness. He was followed by Mieka Buckley-Pearson, the great granddaughter of Lester B. Pearson. She thanked the Centre and Cotler and echoed the sentiment that “the pursuit of justice never ceases. There is so much more to be done.” Finally, Karen Mock was given the honour of thanking Cotler with a small token of appreciation that has engraved on it in Hebrew, “Justice, Justice, you shall pursue.” Cotler thanked Karen for reminding him of the second part of that saying: “Justice, Justice, you shall pursue, and you must pursue Justice justly.”
And the final words of the night belonged to Cotler: “Justice for all, and Equality and Dignity for each.”

* Dr. Maria A. Wallis is an Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Equity Studies at York University.

1. The Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy is a relatively new think-tank based in Ottawa. Andrew Cardozo is the Centre’s first President. The Centre aims to advance a strong Canada that “combines economic success with social responsibility.” After ten years of conservative, neoliberal ideas dominating public discourse in Canada, the Centre aims to break the false dichotomy between economic success or social responsibility. The Centre will strive to show that economic success and social responsibility can be “advanced simultaneously.”
To advance this vision, the Pearson Centre aims to build a foundation of research from a range of stakeholders—individual Canadians, political parties, academics, media commentators, business, labour, and the voluntary sector. This research will prioritize evidence over ideology, and will be based on collaboration, dialogue, and debates. The Pearson Centre lists ten values on its website that anchor its vision for a progressive Canada that includes economic stability and growth for Canadians, sustainable environmental policies, a Canadian identity that includes bilingualism, multiculturalism, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and a focus on social and economic fairness for Aboriginal peoples.
Andrew Cardozo, the Centre’s President has experience in public policy in a number of leadership positions. He has been a Commissioner at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the Executive Director of the Alliance of Sector Councils, and has contributed articles to newspapers such as the Toronto Star, and the Ottawa-based Hill Times. He also teaches, as an Adjunct Professor, at the School of Journalism and Communications at Carleton University in Ottawa. Cardozo has a vision for the Pearson Centre that sees it rivalling other national think-tanks internationally.
The Pearson Centre is governed by a Board of Directors that includes Lloyd Axworthy, Karen Mock, and Andrew Cohen, among others. The Board of Directors in turn has the support of a larger advisory board that includes Ujjal Dosaanjh, Allan Rock, and a cross section of civil society in Canada.
The Pearson Centre is inspired by the legacy of Lester B. Pearson. Lester B. Pearson is seen as one of Canada’s greatest Prime Ministers. He served as Canada’s Prime Minister from 1963 to 1968. During his tenure as Prime Minister, Canada and Canadians gained the Canada Pension Plan, a universal Medicare system, and the much-debated Canadian flag. Pearson’s work on the International stage won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his successful diplomatic efforts during the Suez Crisis.
2. Natan Sharansky graduated with a degree in computer science from the Physical Technical Institute in Moscow. After graduating he applied for an exit visa to Israel but was denied for “security reasons.” This is what sparked his activism in the Rights and Freedom of people, specifically Soviet Jewry to emigrate to Israel.

3. Andrei Sakharov, a leading nuclear physicist in the Soviet Union, helped develop a hydrogen bomb. Then, like Albert Einstein, he spoke out abut the dangers of a nuclear world. His activism extended to his public interventions calling for civil liberties and Human Rights in the Soviet Union. Sakharov won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975. He died in 1989 in Moscow and part of his obituary read, “Everything [he] did was dictated by his conscience.”

4. This evening echoes the Calls for Aboriginal Justice that was recently articulated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Pearson Centre is in the process of organizing a Roundtable on this Report with Justice Murray Sinclair, the Chair of the Commission, as the Keynote speaker.

Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, was Manitoba’s first Aboriginal Judge. On December 15th, 2015, the three Commissioners presented the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada on the history and testimony of the survivors of Canada’s residential system. The moment was solemnly marked by the presence also of two empty chairs on stage to symbolize the many aboriginal girls and boys who never returned home from these residential schools.

The Report, according to Sinclair, marked “both a beginning and an end.” He acknowledged aboriginal people’s determination over the past 6 years to gather the evidence that creates this collective past. He noted that achieving reconciliation can be achieved one step at a time. He concluded, “Remember, reconciliation is yours to achieve. We owe it to each other to build a Canada based on our shared future, a future of healing and trust.” This is the challenge all Canadians must now rise to meet. Cotler’s seven Rs summarize the path to meeting this challenge.

5. On the website of the Member of Parliament for Mount Royal, Cotler’s biography outlines his many accomplishments as Minister of Justice and Attorney General. Cotler is credited with reforming the Supreme Court appointment process and helping it become the most gender-representative Supreme Court in the world. He also appointed the first ever aboriginal and visible minority justices to the Ontario Court of Appeal. These reforms, however, were subsequently ignored by the Conservative government during their tenure. In an Op-Ed article in the Globe and Mail on November 28th, 2014, Cotler critiqued the current government’s process as a regression of the changes he had initiated as Justice Minister. He wrote: “the processes (of appointment)…have been an utter regression of the kind of closed, unaccountable, unrepresentative, and enigmatic approach that, 10 years ago, all parties agreed to change.” He boldly concluded “…the Supreme Court is regrettably diminished in the eyes of the public when its judges are selected in a way that appears downright clandestine.”

Cotler is also credited with introducing Canada’s first-ever legislation to criminalize trafficking in persons. In November 2005, Canada added provisions to the Criminal Code to deal specifically with human trafficking. This is significant as Human Trafficking is increasing as an International crime with an increasing Canadian presence. According to the People’s Law School, “A conservative estimate is that at least 800 people are trafficked into Canada each year, and from 1500 to 2200 people are trafficked each year through Canada to the United States.” (People’s Law School booklet on Human Trafficking, 2010) This situation has probably grown worse since 2010 given the current world-wide financial recession.

In addition, Cotler introduced Canada’s first ever Civil Marriage Act on February 1, 2005. When the Act passed, the Act’s official summary stated the following:
“This enactment extends the legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes to same-sex couples in order to reflect values of tolerance, respect and equality, consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It also marks consequential amendments to other Acts to ensure equal access to same-se couples to the civil effects of marriage and divorce.” This was a victory for Cotler and for all Canadians. Cotler was aware that at the time, Canada was only the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, and the first outside of Europe. In 2015, Cotler marked the 10th anniversary of the Civil Marriage Act by also noting that it was also the 30th anniversary of the Charter’s equality rights provision. He wrote that Canadians “can be proud of Canadian leadership in matters of equality, freedom, justice, and human rights.”

Finally, Cotler is known to have overturned more wrongful convictions in a single year than any prior Minister.

6. Cotler has continued to pursue justice internationally. There are several cases he has taken on either as legal counsel and/or as an advocate.

A. Raif Badawi
Raif Badawi has been detained by Saudi Arabia since 2012. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for establishing an online forum and exercising his right to free expression. While Saudi Arabia administered 50 lashes, they have postponed subsequent lashings as a result of the international outcry on Badawi’s defence. Cotler, as international legal counsel to Badawi, characterized Badawi’s imprisonment and torture as “a flagrant violation of international law.”
The conservative government in 2015 replied that they would “continue to call for clemency.” Cotler has publicly denounced this response as “vague and insufficient” as clemency would not guarantee the end of Badawi’s inhumane treatment, his release, nor his reunification with his family who have taken refuge in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
B. Leopoldo Lopez
The website “Free Leopoldo” introduces Leopoldo Lopez:
“He is the founder and National Coordinator of Voluntad Popular (Popular Will), a social movement and political party composed of thousands of activists and community, labor and youth leaders from all regions of Venezuela. Voluntad Popular promotes a conciliatory message of peace, prosperity, and progress and is committed to construction of a better future where all Venezuelans have access to economic, political and social opportunities.”
Leopoldo Lopez was arrested by Venezuelan President Niclas Maduro on February 18, 2014. Amnesty International calls the arrest a “politically motivated attempt to silence dissent in the country.”

C. Ayatollan Boroujerdi
Ayatollah Boroujerdi is an Iranian cleric who advocates for the separation of religion and the state.
He was arrested in 2006 and called before the Special Clerical Court (SCC). According to Amnesty International, the SCC is “a highly secretive body which reports directly to the Supreme Leader and is independent of the judiciary.”
According to Amnesty International, Ayatollah Boroujerdi’s letter to Mr. Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations was published on September 22nd, 2014: “In this letter Ayatollah Boroujerdi strongly criticizes the government of Iran for mishandling the country’s money by corruption and by financing causes in other Muslim countries, such as addressing unemployment, rampant poverty and the desperate need for health care.”
Ayatollah Boroujerdi is known as “Iran’s [Nelson] Mandala”. The Amnesty International website states that he “was initially sentenced to death, but due to appeals and international pressure, the sentence was changed to 11 years of imprisonment. He has been subjected to harsh interrogations and frequent torture.”

D. Biram Dah Abeid
In 2013, Biram Dah Abeid won the United Nations Human Rights Prize (this prize was also won by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela). A New Yorker article published in 2014 described Abeid as “the most prominent antislavery activist in Mauritania, which is said to have the highest incidence of slavery in the world.”
Abeid has faced a series of arrests, the latest was in 2014 when he was arrested, with others, for protesting against the “repeal of charges against a slave master who raped a 15-year-old girl that worked as his slave.” (John D. Sutter, CNN, October 2014). He remains in prison to this day serving a two-year sentence.
7. Raoul Wallenberg
According to the Jewish Virtual Library website, “Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat in Nazi-occupied Hungary who led an extensive and successful mission to save the lives of nearly 100,000 Hungarian Jews. …His fate and ultimate death is unknown still to this day.
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation is a non-profit non-governmental organization established to develop educational programs and public awareness campaigns “…based on the values of solidarity and civic courage, ethical cornerstones of the Saviors of the Holocaust.”
The Wallenberg Foundation has offices in New York, Jerusalem, Buenos Aires, Berlin and Rio de Janeiro.
Irwin Cotler has created an office of the Wallenberg Foundation in Montreal, Canada. According to Cotler: “the centre will continue Wallenberg’s humanitarian legacy and pursue justice. Its mission statement includes opposing anti-Semitism and genocide, promoting human rights and defending political prisoners.” (The Canadian Jewish News, May 2016).

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