June 3, 2019

McGill Awards Top Honor to Irwin Cotler, Human Rights Lawyer & UN Watch Board Member

Irwin Cotler has played a key role over the past decade at UN Watch’s annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights, a platform for dissidents and families of political prisoners.

 GENEVA, May 30, 2019 – UN Watch extends heartfelt congratulations to Professor Irwin Cotler, a devoted member of our Board of Directors, for today receiving the top honor of McGill University, the degree of Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa.

In a video message sent today from Oslo City Hall, UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer said the following:

“In Pirkei Avot, it is written: ‘By three things is the world sustained: law, truth and peace.’

Professor Cotler, the former Justice Minister of Canada, and one of the great human rights lawyers and defenders of political prisoners of our time, embodies these values.

His tireless advocacy for human rights dissidents worldwide; his passion for justice and the cause of peace; and his infectious idealism, sincerity, and integrity have inspired so many to help make the world a better place.”

Following is the official announcement from McGill University.

Doctor of Laws, honoris causa
Irwin Cotler, P.C., O.C., O.Q. 
B.A., B.C.L. (McGill University), LL.M. (Yale University)

A prominent and respected figure on both the national and international stages, Irwin Cotler’s willingness to stand by his principles and help those in need serves as inspiration for all Canadians.

He completed his undergraduate and law degrees at McGill University, where he was a University Scholar, a member of the Student Executive Council, and President of the McGill Law Students’ Association. He then went on to complete his Master of Laws at Yale University. Shortly thereafter, he joined the academic staff at McGill University as a Professor of Law, serving as the Director of McGill’s Human Rights Program from 1973 to 1999.

In 1999, Irwin Cotler was elected to represent his Montreal community as the Member of Parliament for Mont-Royal, a post he served until 2015. Appointed to the post of Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada in 2003 by former Prime Minister Paul Martin, Mr. Cotler has been an influential force in legislation that has defined Canadian life.

His legal successes include passing legislation granting same-sex couples the right to marry in Canada, named the Civil Marriage Act; initiating the first-ever comprehensive reform of the Supreme Court appointment process and helping make it the most gender-representative Supreme Court in the world; initiating the first-ever law on human trafficking; quashing more wrongful convictions in a single year than any prior Minister; and making the pursuit of international justice a government priority.

Throughout his distinguished career, Mr. Cotler has represented some of the most notable political prisoners and activists of the 20th century. As a human rights lawyer, he has represented imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, Nelson Mandela, Russian Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Andrei Sakharov, Nathan Sharansky, who became the deputy prime minister of Israel, Chinese activist and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, and Egyptian academic, Professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim.

For his efforts as a human rights activist and a pioneer in the development of peace law, the Honourable Irwin Cotler was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1992. He has received both the Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals in 2002 and 2012, was the first recipient of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Human Rights Award in 2015, and that same year, was awarded the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award. In 2017, he was named an Officier de l’Ordre National du Québec.

As the Founder and Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights in Montreal, Mr. Cotler strives to unite individuals in the pursuit of justice and is a true role model, leader and inspiration for future generations.