Irwin Cotler — “Counsel for the Oppressed”

Irwin Cotler: “Counsel for the Oppressed”


On the eve of his retirement in October, Irwin Cotler, a Member of Parliament for Mount Royal Canada since 1999, called on fellow MOPs to continue ongoing efforts to pass legislation against forced organ harvesting in China.

A parallel proposal in the US, HRes 343, calls on Congress to take a similar stand and pass much needed legislation. The process of passing a resolution through Congress or Parliament, and supporting the passage of a bill on forced organ harvesting in China requires near Herculean efforts in the US and Canada.

“The issue transcends partisan politics, as members from all major political parties have lent support to stop forced organ harvesting,” said Cotler of the process of resurrecting and re-introducing legislation in Canada.

Considered a world expert on international law and human rights law, Mr. Cotler served as counsel for prisoner of conscience Nelson Mandela. among others. He served as chief counsel to the Canadian Jewish Congress at the Deschenes Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals, and is a member of the board of the NGO, Advancing Human Rights and has spoken at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. His work to promote protective legislation and prevent collusion with the human rights atrocity of forced organ harvesting in China has influenced and unified the Canadian Parliament through awareness, cooperation and persistence.

Cotler credited DAFOH with keeping the attention of MOP by keeping them informed and by promoting support from all political parties. DAFOH’s Canadian chapter sent a questionnaire to the federal election candidates, asking them for their views on illegal organ harvesting in China and their position on legislative action to combat the issue. The questionnaire helped to illuminate a unity that existed amongst members, that in the end helped them to cooperate through increased awareness and an acceptance that they needed to act swiftly.

“Crimes against humanity—like e.g. the forced organ harvesting from living, non-consenting prisoners of conscience in China—must never be seen with the eyes of partisanship,” quotes Cotler, of an influential email he received from DAFOH director, Dr. Torsten Trey. “While parties might differ in their approaches and solutions on social issues, they all agree fundamentally on respecting human dignity. Like no other subject, when it comes to human dignity and forced organ harvesting, the different parties, people, and nations should stand united against such crimes against humanity.”


December 6, 2013

When he was Liberal Party’s critic for rights and freedoms and international justice, Cotler introduced a private member’s bill, C-561, in the House of Commons to combat organ harvesting:

An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking and transplanting human organs and other body parts)

November 6, 2014 (first passed) Feb 3, 2015 (amendment)

Cotler has worked with members from other parties to research the issue at the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Human Rights, of which he is vice-chair.

Extract of minutes:

The House of Commons’ all-party subcommittee on International Human Rights released a statement condemning the pillaging of organs from Falun Gong. It expressed “deep concern over credible allegations that prisoners of conscience and members of religious and ethnic minority groups, including but not limited to practitioners of Falun Dafa [commonly known as Falun Gong] and Uighurs, in the People’s Republic of China are being executed for the purposes of harvesting and transplanting their organs…” In a call to end the transplantation of organs from living or deceased donors without consent, the subcommittee

  • Encourages Canadian medical professionals, scientists, researchers and their professional organizations as well as regulatory bodies to continue their efforts to put an end to illegal and unethical transplantation practices.”
  • Calls on medical and scientific professional and regulatory bodies to name, shame and ostracize individuals, institutions and their affiliates involved in the forced harvesting and trafficking of human organs.”
  • Calls on the Government of Canada to consider ways to discourage and prevent Canadians from taking part in transplant tourism, where the organs have not been obtained in an ethical, safe and transparent fashion.”
November 19th, 2014  

At the House of Commons, Colter tabled a petition on behalf of Canadians who are concerned about the cruel practice of forced organ harvesting by the Chinese regime on vulnerable prisoners, including Falun Gong practitioners.

February 18th, 2015

At the House of Common, Colter tabled six petitions in one day on behalf of some 3,000 Canadians who spoke out about forced organ harvesting by the Chinese Communist regime on prisoners, including Falun Gong practitioners, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands, as documented by David Matas, David Kilgour and Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting.

April 1st, 2015

At the House of Commons, Colter tabled another petition on the forced organ harvesting issue.

April 24th, 2015

At the House of Common, Colter tabled another petition on the forced organ harvesting issue.

Cotler Hopes New Parliament Will Enact Legislation to Combat Forced Organ Harvesting