Irwin Cotler:  Canada's new Minister of Justice.  Friend or foe?





Please contact Irwin Cotler to ask for his support for equal marriage:

Parliamentary Office:
House of Commons
Parliament Buildings
Ottawa, Ontario

Phone: 613-995-0121
Fax: 613-992-6762


Constituency Office:
4770 Kent Ave
Suite 316
Montreal QC
H3K 1H2

Phone: (514) 283-0171
Fax: (514) 283-2407




Irwin Cotler: A legal lapdog fetches an excuse to delay justice as part of the strategy for an upcoming Liberal election campaign




"... sources within the government have been suggesting to for more than a week, that newly installed Prime Minister Paul Martin is hoping to delay the court hearing. Martin is anxious to call a spring election, but fearful that a Supreme Court hearing on the marriage issue could hurt him at the polls.", Dec. 15, 2003




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Adovcacy News - Irwin Cotler

December 12, 2003 (updated Dec. 15)

Canada's new Justice Minister: Irwin Cotler

Canada's 21st Prime Minister, Paul Martin (Liberal party), announced the members of his new Cabinet today. The PM hopes to distance himself from the previous Liberal government in an attempt to portray renewel. Many seasoned veterans have been sent to the backbenches of Parliament, including Martin Cauchon, the former Justice Minister who became an outspoken advocate for equal marriage in the wake of the Ontario court decision last summer.

The new Minister of Justice is Irwin Cotler, a rookie Member of Parliament representing the riding of Mount Royal (Montreal). Cotler was a professor at McGill University where, since 1973, he specialized in constitutional law, human rights and civil liberties. He has a reputation for being strong-willed and highly self-assured, backed by at least eight degrees from seven universities (it's hard to keep track of Cotler's academic achievements and honours) and he received the Order of Canada in 1992.

Cotler entered politics in 1999, under some speculation that he was a single-term candidate: an academic picking up some field work experience to take back to the lecture hall.

In an interview with the McGill Reporter (Oct. 21, 1999), Cotler spoke of his 12-year-old son who questioned his reasons for entering politics:

He asks me why I want to be a politician. 'Politicians are crooks,' he says. He says I have a great reputation as a human rights lawyer. Why do I want to ruin it? ... If I feel that [life in Ottawa] is all about the pursuit of political power and not about the pursuit of principles, I'll be gone.

Friend or foe?

At first glance, the new Justice Minister looks like someone who will continue down the path established by his predecessor, towards the implementation of full and equal marriage for all Canadians.

Cotler was absent from Parliament during last September's vote on an Alliance party motion to maintain marriage discrimination, so there was no Parliamentary record on where he stood. However, a closer look reveals some disturbing possibilities.

The McGill Daily, in an article titled "The Future of Religion and Society" (Oct. 17, 2002) wrote:

Emphasizing the necessity for religion to play a role in human rights, Cotler concluded, "We must create a culture of respect, one that is not only legal but also that is anchored in the jurisprudence of the great religions."

Contemplating the end of civil marriage for all

Cotler may be a front man for the conservative/religious elements within the Liberal party. His support for equal marriage is not as firm as his resume would lead one to expect. The Globe and Mail reported (Aug. 21, 2003) that Cotler "said he believes the Supreme Court of Canada could accept a redefinition of civil marriage as civil unions open to both heterosexual and gay couples. Marriage would be left to churches."

The end of civil marriage would be equality with a vengeance: closing the pool or park rather than allowing minorities in.

Seperate but equal scheme used as delay tactic

Cotler may stall for time by revising the Supreme Court reference to ask if civil unions for same-sex couples, instead of marriage, will satisfy the Charter guarantee of equality. Courts have already ruled that civil unions are not an appropriate remedy for same-sex couples.

RDPs must not be used to as a separate regime for gays and lesbians. The doctrine of seperate but equal was discredited 40 years ago. The Supreme Court of Canada (M v. H) has called for equality for same-sex couples, and courts in all three marriage cases have agreed that civil unions will not do.

"I think that there can be another option than same-sex marriage," Cotler said in the Globe report last summer. "The court may come up with the kind of advisory opinion that will be respectful of the different sensibilities at the same time as it will be consistent with the equality-rights provision under the Charter."

More recently, the new Justice Minister told reporters (Canadian Press, Dec. 13) that the civil union question should still be considered.

Instead of serving justice, however, the move may be serving the political interests of the Liberal party. Next spring's Supreme Court reference may conflict with the Prime Minister's plan to call an election.

Call to Action

Please contact the new Justice Minister to express your support for equal marriage.

MailLink to our media coverage of related issues.