October 29, 2014

Irwin Cotler received the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Medal

Ottawa, October 28th, 2014. Canadian MP Irwin Cotler was awarded the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Medal by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation at a reception that took place on  Tuesday, October 28, at the Parliament of Canada. The reception was co-hosted by Speaker of the House of Commons Andrew Scheer, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, and the Wallenberg Foundation.

Cotler was recognized for his longstanding commitment to preserving the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews during the Second World War before being arrested by the Soviet Union in 1945, and disappearing into the Soviet prison system. Wallenberg was named Canada´s first honorary citizen in 1985.

The Wallenberg Foundation also recognized Cotler’s efforts in Holocaust education, in the combating and prevention of mass atrocity, and in the defence of political prisoners worldwide, including Natan Sharansky and Nelson Mandela.

Cotler served as counsel to the late Professor Guy von Dardel (half-brother of the Swedish diplomat) in the 1984 U.S. case Von Dardel v. USSR, which found the evidence “incontrovertible” that Wallenberg hadn t died in 1947 as the Soviets claimed. In 1990, Cotler chaired the International Commission on the Fate and Whereabouts of Raoul Wallenberg, and in 2001, he was instrumental in establishing January 17 as Raoul Wallenberg Day in Canada.

Past recipients of the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Medal include former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, and leaders of Greece, Denmark, Slovakia, and Armenia.

Andrew Scheer, speaker of the House of Commons; John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Thomas Mulcair, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada; Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, all praised Professor Cotler for the award and thanked the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation for this well-deserved recognition and for the role played by the NGO in promoting the legacy of the Swedish hero.

Dr. Paldiel gave a speech on behalf of the Wallenberg Foundation, stating that “we cannot think of a worthier recipient of this award than Prof. Irwin Cotler. This tribute trascends any partisan considerations and the presence of the leaders of the three main political parties is a clear reminder of that”.

He went on by quoting Eduardo Eurnekian, Chairman of the IRWF, by saying: “It is  a great honour for the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation to present this award to our dear friend, Irwin Cotler, a great and outspoken defender of human rights causes who has made an outstanding contribution to spreading the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg. It is a special privilege to bestow this medal in the House of Commons of Canada, a country which has granted honorary citizenship to this Swedish hero”.

After receiving the medal from Dr. Paldiel, Cotler gave his acceptance speech, thanking the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation for this honor.

He stressed that Raoul Wallenberg was not only a hero but also a victim and called upon President Putin to “open-up the archives” to finally determine what happened to Wallenberg.