Veteran Jewish Human Rights Advocate Irwin Cotler Named as Canadian Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism
The Canadian government announced on Tuesday that it was creating a special envoy to combat antisemitism and commemorate the Holocaust, naming the respected former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler as the new post’s first incumbent.
The appointment was announced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“We must never forget the painful lessons of the Holocaust, or the memories of those who lived through it, because anti-Semitism has no place in Canada, or anywhere else,” Trudeau said in a statement.
Cotler’s record as a human rights lawyer and advocate who has stood against racism and antisemitism made him an ideal choice, the statement explained.
The 80-year-old Cotler first entered the Canadian Parliament in 1999, subsequently serving as minister of justice and attorney general of Canada from 2003-06.
As a lawyer, Cotler represented dissidents and advocates for justice around the world. His clients included the late Nelson Mandela, at a time when the former South African President was imprisoned by the Apartheid regime, and Natan Sharansky, when the former head of the Jewish Agency was a “Prisoner of Zion” in the Soviet Union.
Cotler is presently the head of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, an NGO he founded that focuses on genocide prevention.
The news of Cotler’s appointment was warmly welcomed by Canadian Jewish leaders.
“Anti-Jewish racism is a cancer, and there is no one more qualified than Mr. Cotler to lead the fight against it on Canada’s behalf on the international stage,” Jeffrey Rosenthal — co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) — told national broadcaster CBC.
B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said that the announcement was “a major step forward in the fight against antisemitism in Canada and shows a much-needed seriousness in our government’s commitment to this promise.”