The Honourable Irwin Cotler, P.C., O.C., O.Q., is the founder and chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, an Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and an international human rights lawyer.
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. Between 1999 and 2015, Irwin Cotler served as Member of Parliament for Mount Royal. As a Parliamentarian, he advocated for human rights and international justice, including as chair of the first-ever Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court, chair of the Parliamentarians for Global Action (Canada), chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran, the Inter-Parliamentary Group of Justice for Sergei Magnitsky, and the All-Party Save Darfur Parliamentary Coalition.
As Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada from 2003 to 2006, he launched Canada’s first National Justice Initiative Against Racism and Hate, and initiated the first-ever prosecution for the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda under Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act. He also helped make the Supreme Court of Canada the world’s most gender-representative supreme court, appointed the first-ever Indigenous and visible minority justices to the Ontario Court of Appeal, and led the adoption of the Civil Marriage Act.
Mr. Cotler is an internationally recognized scholar and human rights advocate. As a constitutional and comparative legal specialist, he has published numerous seminal legal articles, and has intervened in landmark Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms cases on free speech, freedom of religion, minority rights, peace law, and war crimes. As an international human rights lawyer, Mr. Cotler has served as counsel to various high-profile prisoners of conscience and political prisoners including Nelson Mandela, Andrei Sakharov, Natan Sharansky, Jacobo Timerman, and Professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim. He currently serves as counsel to Nasrin Sotoudeh and Raif Badawi.
In addition, he was chair of the International Commission of Inquiry into the Fate and Whereabouts of Raoul Wallenberg, member of the Organization of American States Independent Panel of Legal Experts on Venezuela, and is presently the Canadian member of the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom.
Irwin Cotler is a Privy Councillor, an Officer of the Order of Canada, an Officer of the National Order of Quebec, and a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Mr. Cotler is the recipient of 14 honorary doctorates and numerous awards from institutions in Canada and around the world. He was the first Canadian recipient of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation’s Centennial Medal, and the recipient of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s inaugural Human Rights Award. Mr. Cotler has also received the Canadian Bar Association President’s Award, the Romeo Dallaire Award for Human Rights Leadership, and the Sir Zafrullah Khan Award for Distinguished Public Service.