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Human rights activist Irwin Cotler named Canada’s first anti-Semitism envoy

Former justice minister, who has years of experience advocating for notables including Nelson Mandela and Natan Sharansky, will work with ministers on policy and programming

Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler speaks to the media during a press conference in Jerusalem, Dec. 30, 2009 (photo credit: AP/Dan Balilty)
Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler speaks to the media during a press conference in Jerusalem, Dec. 30, 2009 (photo credit: AP/Dan Balilty)

JTA — Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian justice minister and a human rights activist, is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s choice as his nation’s first envoy to combat anti-Semitism.

Cotler, a lawyer who belongs to Trudeau’s Liberal Party, has long been a leading figure in human rights advocacy. He has worked for a number of prisoners of conscience including Nelson Mandela, who went on to lead South Africa; Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet dissident leader; Natan Sharansky, the prisoner in a Soviet gulag who went on to become an Israeli cabinet minister and the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel; and Jacobo Timerman, the Jewish author and one-time prisoner of the Argentine junta.

He has also served as a Parliament member for a Montreal district.

“As Canada’s first Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, Irwin Cotler will use his vast knowledge and experience to promote Holocaust education, remembrance, and research as we continue working with partners in Canada and around the world to fight against hate and intolerance,” Trudeau said Wednesday in a statement. “Because antisemitism has no place in Canada – or anywhere else.”

The statement said Cotler would work with government ministers to inform on policy and programming.

His daughter, Michal Cotler-Wunsh, serves as a member of Knesset for the Blue and White party.

— Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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