Canadian Lawmakers Give Standing Ovation to Irwin Cotler After Pro-Palestinian Protesters Disrupt His Talk
Former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler received a standing ovation in the Canadian Parliament on Thursday, just days after pro-Palestinian demonstrators disrupted a talk of his in Montreal.
Cotler, chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights and former member of parliament, took the stage at Concordia University on Monday as part of a day-long conference on “pressing human rights issues.”
His panel was disrupted by Dimitri Lascaris, an activist who was condemned last year for claiming that two Jewish lawmakers were more loyal to Israel than to Canada — comments that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called “vile anti-Semitic smears.”
After climbing into the stage, Lascaris accused Cotler of refusing to criticize Israel for “running roughshod over the human rights of the Palestinian people,” and refused repeated requests to ask his question during the designated period, claiming he had a right to disrupt the talk and “express my objection to this outrage.”
He was eventually escorted off the stage by a security guard after event organizers decided to take a break due to the disturbance.
Lascaris, a member of Quebec Movement for Peace, was joined in his protest by two other group members, Yves Engler and Malcolm Guy, who mounted the stage and stood behind Cotler with signs reading, “Free Palestine,” and, “Hands off Venezuela.” They too were removed.
The incidents drew criticism, with Michael Levitt, a Liberal lawmaker who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, condemning the “thuggery & bully tactics … by the ‘Free Palestine’ movement.”
“I am absolutely disgusted by the taunting, intimidation & harassment that was on full display as #humanrights champion @IrwinCotler was ambushed at this event,” Levitt added on Twitter.
It was also brought up during question period at the House of Commons on Thursday by Conservative lawmaker David Sweet, who applauded Cotler’s defense of “minorities around the world against tyrannical dictatorships.”
Parliament of Canada just gave a standing ovation in support of human rights activist Irwin Cotler. His conference on Monday was disrupted by Dimitri Lascaris, a notorious apologist for Assad & Maduro war crimes who has been condemned by Prime Minister Trudeau for antisemitism. pic.twitter.com/b7lgG6IcBk
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) June 6, 2019
“He’s represented the likes of Nelson Mandela, Jacobo Timmerman, and Natan Sharansky, and served several human rights organizations,” Sweet noted. “On Monday he was disrupted and berated during a speech at Concordia University in an attempt by protesters to shut him down.”
“Will the government condemn this attack on free speech of one of Canada’s human rights defenders?” he asked
Sweet’s question was met with a standing ovation, with Liberal lawmaker Robert Oliphant, parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, affirming that he would convey the government’s support of Cotler.
“We stand with Irwin Cotler who has been a defender of human rights, civil rights, justice around the world,” Oliphant said.