Irwin Cotler was
honored at an event for his lifelong human rights activism, where attendees
learned how Jewish values drove his career in pursuing justice.
“My father used to say to me: the pursuit of justice is equal to all the
commandments combined,” the former Montreal MP recalled at the Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy’s
March 31 event
at Toronto’s Omni King Edward Hotel.
Among the introductory remarks were from former prime ministers John Turner,
and via video Paul Martin.
As well as serving as Mount Royal’s Liberal MP from
1999 to 2015, Cotler served as Minister of Justice and Attorney General from
2003 to 2005.
In dialog with Indira Naidoo-Harris, Liberal Ontario parliamentarian for
Halton, Ont., Cotler spoke about a ten-year old idea that never bore fruit,
wherein justice ministers from Israel,
the Palestinian Authority, Jordan
and Egypt all
agreed to convene with Canada’s
justice minister, in Canada,
to foster dialog. A “justice summit” he dubbed it, “which I hoped would have a
It is his expressed desire to request the Trudeau government to revive the
As an international human rights lawyer, Cotler served as counsel to many
high profile political prisoners, including South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, and
Soviet Jewish activist Natan
Sharansky, who later became a member of Knesset and author.
Both prisoners were beacons of “hope and the vision and the inspiration,” as
“two of the great human rights struggles of the second half of the 20th
century,” Cotler remarked.
The release of political prisoners, he added, is “such an overriding
(Jewish) commandment, that you’re allowed to breach the Sabbath,” to free them.
Cotler’s next undertaking is building the Raoul
Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights in Montreal,
which, among many of its objectives, he told LandmarkReport, is
“promoting human dignity; combating racism, hatred and anti-Semitism, and
defending political prisoners.”
The host of the event, the Pearson Centre, touts itself as a centrist think
tank, addressing policy issues related to justice, health and social services,
and whose goal it is “to engage Canadians in an active dialogue about a
progressive future for Canada.”
The event also served to launch the Pearson Centre’s new Pursuing
Justice Project, aimed to “advance justice, diversity and inclusion.”
Below, Dave interviews Irwin Cotler about his new initiative, Nazi war
criminals and speaking out against genocide:
Hear a sample of the event's honoree, speaking on stage:
And finally, Dave interviews the Rt. Hon. John Turner for a
second time, at the Pearson Centre event, asking him his thoughts on Justin
Trudeau, and how to minimize political discord: