Q&A: Irwin Cotler on the belief of an individual to change society

"I’ve always had a dream to establish a Raoul Wallenberg centre for international justice, named after Canada’s first honorary citizen, which would be a unique international consortium of parliamentarians, scholars, jurists, human rights defenders, NGOs and students united in the pursuit of justice, and anchored in and inspired by Wallenberg’s humanitarian legacy."

What attracted you to working with political prisoners? I understand now you’re working with Leopoldo Lopez of Venezuela, Raif Badawi of Saudi Arabia and Ayatollah Boroujerdi in Iran.

"I was involved in the two great human rights struggles of the second half of the 20th century: the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the struggle for Soviet Jewry. Through those struggles, I began to take up the cause of political prisoners, beginning with Anatoly Sharansky and Andrei Sakharov in the former Soviet Union. They are a looking-glass for the repression of their countries. They are often a kind of looking-glass into what life could be like if they would be liberated."

What are you most proud of?

"On the international level, I’m probably most proud of what modest involvement I had in the struggles against apartheid and for Soviet Jewry, and representing the political prisoners involved in those struggles. On the domestic side, probably my own very modest involvement in the Charter. And humbled and moved by the thing I’ll never forget, when [prime minister] Paul Martin not only appointed me minister of justice and attorney-general, but allowed me to, in fact, be the minister of justice and attorney-general, whether it be reforming the judicial appointment process or in the appointment itself of judges."

Excerpt from:

"Q&A: Irwin Cotler on the belief of an individual to change society"

Sean Fine, Globe and Mail