Irwin Cotler, Patron

Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights
Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University
former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and Member of Parliament
International human rights lawyer.

A constitutional and comparative law scholar, Irwin Cotler is the author of numerous publications and significant legal articles and has written on, and intervened in, landmark Charter of Rights cases in the areas of free speech, freedom of religion, minority rights, peace law and war crimes justice.

As Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Irwin Cotler initiated the first-ever comprehensive reform of the Canadian Supreme Court appointment process and helped make it the most gender-representative Supreme Court in the world; appointed the first-ever First Nations person and visible minority justices to the Ontario Court of Appeal; initiated the first-ever law on human trafficking; crafted the Civil Marriage Act, the first-ever legislation to grant marriage equality to gays and lesbians; issued Canada’s first National Justice Initiative Against Racism and Hate; quashed more wrongful convictions in a single year than any prior Minister, and made the pursuit of international justice a government priority.

A leading Parliamentarian on the global stage, he has been Chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran; Chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Group of Justice for Sergei Magnitsky; Chair of the All-Party Save Darfur Parliamentary Coalition; Chair, Canadian section, of the Parliamentarians for Global Action and Member of its international council.

An international human rights lawyer, Irwin Cotler has served as Counsel to prisoners of conscience including Andrei Sakharov & Nathan Sharansky (former Soviet Union), Nelson Mandela (South Africa), Jacobo Timmerman (Latin America), Professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim (Egypt) and he was Chair of the International Commission of Inquiry into the Fate and Whereabouts of Raoul Wallenberg. He was a Member of the International Legal Team of Chinese Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo, and more recently became international legal counsel to imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo López, and Shi’ite Cleric Ayatollah Boroujerdi in Iran. A feature article on him in Canada’s national magazine – Maclean’s – referred to him as “Counsel for the Oppressed”, while the Oslo Freedom Forum characterized him as “Freedom’s Counsel.”

Irwin Cotler was at the “World Conference against Racism” in Durban in 2001. Following that experience some ore of his focus turned towards antisemitism.

image By Jindřich Nosek (NoJin) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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