Trudeau names Cotler as Canada’s special envoy on combating antisemitism

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Irwin Cotler as Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism, the prime minister’s office said on Wednesday.The office said that the Canadian government has shifted a bit of focus to “reinforcing and strengthening Canada’s efforts to advance Holocaust education, remembrance and research,” in addition to stamping out antisemitism to protect human rights domestically and abroad.”With a longstanding record of leadership in the fight against racism, antisemitism, and hate, and extensive experience in human rights and justice including in cases related to mass atrocities, Mr. Cotler will lead the Government of Canada’s delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA),” the statement read. Cotler will work with Canadian allies as well as domestic partners, to promote Holocaust education and remembrance at home and around the world. The special envoy will collaborate with Canada’s Foreign Affairs and Diversity and Inclusion and Youth ministers to forward the strengthening, advancing, and promotion of Holocaust awareness and education.Cotler is the founder and chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights, an Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University, the former Justice Minister and Attorney-General of Canada, as well as an international human rights lawyer. Cotler is also the father of Blue and White MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh. “Through his career, Irwin Cotler has demonstrated strong leadership in the fight against racism, antisemitism and hate. He also acquired a vast experience in justice and human rights,” the prime minister’s office said.As a parliamentarian he advocated for human rights, and chaired the Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court.

As a Justice Minister and Attorney-General he lead the first-recorded prosecution for the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda. As an academic and a lawyer he has published numerous articles and “intervened in landmark Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms cases on free speech, freedom of religion, minority rights, peace law, and war crimes.” He also served as counsel for imprisoned high-profile human rights activists such as Nelson Mandela and Natan Sharansky. His quest for justice and subsequent activism has garnered him numerous national and local honors throughout his career, including awards, honorary doctorates, medals, etc..On June 25, 2019, Canada adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism as part of its anti-racism strategy.According to statistics, antisemitism constitutes the highest proportion of hate crimes in Canada. In 2017, Statistics Canada reported 360 hate crimes that targeted the Jewish community.The IHRA definition of antisemitism, drafted in 2016, states that “antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”The working definition also includes examples of anti-Israel rhetoric and bias that “may serve as illustrations” of antisemitism – including “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” or “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.”Canada is one of 34 other IHRA member countries who have accepted the definition, joining the ranks of the United States, the UK, France and Italy, among others. Montreal has, however, refused to support the decision, with the reasoning behind he decision being Montreal feels as though that it should develop its own definition of antisemitism.”The Holocaust was one of the darkest chapters in human history. Seventy-five years after the liberation of Nazi concentration and extermination camps revealed the full horrors of the Holocaust, Jewish communities in Canada and around the world face rising antisemitism,” the statement said. “The Government of Canada will always stand with the Jewish community, and fight the antisemitism, hatred, and racism that incites such despicable acts. We will also continue to preserve the stories of survivors through younger generations, and work to promote and defend pluralism, inclusion, and human rights.”

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