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Mount Royal MP unveils parliamentary agenda
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 9 juin 2011

Photo: Marie Cicchini

Irwin Cotler, Liberal, M.P. For Mount Royal

Irwin Cotler met with local media in his office on May 27 to present his agenda and priorities for the 41st Parliament that began this week.

«These issues are very important for the country,» said Cotler, just before the long-time MP for Mount Royal was selected as Liberal Justice critic, where he was minister during the Paul Martin years.

The first item on his agenda is the Supreme Court appointments. Stephen Harper has two vacancies to fill before the fall session of the court begins. The jurisdiction of the Canadian Supreme Court is broader than that of the American Supreme Court. The integrity of the process of choosing judges is very important. As former minister of justice, Irwin Cotler drew up a protocol with criteria for professional and personal merit. The consultative process by which the judges are appointed was to anchor itself in those criteria. «What we want is an independent, transparent, merit-based appointment process, and to remove ideology and politicization from the appointment process,» he said.

The second initiative is to work on a comprehensive justice agenda. Bundling 17 crime bills would be a distortion of priorities, he says. «The Conservative government would be investing 1000 times more in its crime agenda building prisons than it would be in terms of its budget for seniors. There are 700,000 seniors living under the poverty line who will be allocated $1.50 a day under the government’s proposed budget.»

He proposes a justice policy agenda that contains more than just crime bills: protection and commemoration of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the eve of its 30th anniversary of adoption, «instead of a marginalization»; an equality principle for the building of a just society, «any notion of which has been abandoned by the Harper government»; 10 initiatives pertaining to gender equality; the Court Challenges program; a comprehensive legal aid system for civil and criminal legal aid; an end to impunity to bring war criminals to justice; provisions regarding terrorism, security and human rights; amendments to the State Immunity Act so that foreign perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide cannot have immunity in Canadian courts; protection of Canadian citizens abroad; a social justice agenda.

Cotler will also focus on health care and seniors’ health in particular. The Conservatives didn’t ever enter into a relationship with the provinces to implement the provisions of the first-ever Canada Health Accord, with its eight specific health care priorities. Cotler says it’s time to move to implement them. He also proposes a specific agency be established with regard to Alzheimer’s disease. «Our seniors are increasingly afflicted with AD and dementia. We need a comprehensive health strategy to address it,» he says.

International justice and foreign policy agenda

Irwin Cotler wants to renew his call to list the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist entity, «as the US and the European Union have done it, but not us,» he says. Iran’s four-fold threat has worsened with the discovery of evidence that the Teheran regime has conducted work on a sophisticated triggering technology that could be used solely for setting off a nuclear weapon. Iranians are parading a missile with a new nuclear warhead in the streets while calling to eliminate Israel. «No Canadian newspaper has reported this development, in part because we were in the post-election period,» says the MP for Mount Royal.

With respect to massive human rights violations in Iran, he plans to see to the implementation of the resolution tabled by the subcommittee on International Human Rights on which he sits, and to reintroduce and expand the Iran Accountability Act. The subcommittee will also be forming the first-ever interparliamentary group for human rights in Iran, to be composed of American members of Congress and European, African and Canadian parliamentarians.

He will also be combating sexual violence against women in armed conflicts, as well as emphasizing the whole priority Canada has attached to the question of Africa: the independence of Southern Sudan; the killing fields in Darfur; the rapes in the Congo; and Zimbabwe’s emergence as a key enabler of Iran’s march toward an atomic bomb, in violation of United Nations sanctions, by giving the Iranian regime preferential access to an estimated 455,000 tons of uranium over the next five years. «Nothing of this is being appreciated here in Canada, in the Canadian media or in our foreign policy,» says Cotler.

The last thing on his agenda will be protecting political prisoners. Cotler took part in the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony as a member of the International Legal Team for laureate Dr. Liu Xiaobo of China, a great human rights hero who has been sentenced to 11 years in prison in China for subversion. Cotler is representing a group of people in China in association with Dr. Xiaobo.

«I will be reintroducing all the bills and motions that died on the Order Paper, but I will be updating them to take into account new developments. For example, I will be reintroducing the Iran Accountability Act and rename it The Iranian Sanctions and Accountability Act as soon as I can, as well as all the other bills and motions,» concluded the MP.

[ Marie Cicchini ]

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