'This is the Parliament of Canada. This is vox populi.' - Macleans.ca

‘This is the Parliament of Canada. This is vox populi.’

Irwin Cotler announces he won’t seek re-election


The official announcement that Irwin Cotler, the widely respected Liberal MP, will not seek re-election in 2015 is here. In speaking with reporters this afternoon, he also offered a few words on his time in Parliament.

As I say this, I want to emphasize that, for me, it has been a privilege and an honour to serve as a Member of Parliament, to represent le comté de Mont-Royal. Comme je dis toujours, c’est un comté arc-en-ciel. It’s a rainbow riding and through Parliament and through my representation to be able to serve the people of Canada, as I was reflecting on this today, I was reminded of the fact that I first came to this Parliament when I was 11 years old. I came here with my father, and he said to me—I still hear the words resonating, and he said, “Son, this is the Parliament of Canada. This is vox populi.” C’est la voix du peuple. This is the voice of the people.

If you say this today, it’s greeted with a certain degree of cynicism. But I have to say that I’ve retained that respect, indeed reverence for Parliament, as an institution. For me, this is the centrepiece of our democracy, the pillar, really, of what the struggle for human rights and where la primauté de droit, the rule of law.

And in that regard, when Justin was speaking about Pierre Elliott Trudeau, his father, who was also my predecessor in Mont-Royal, MP of the riding, when I first declared and then was elected, I went to see him, and I asked him if he had any advice about being a Member of Parliament. And his words still resonate for me, which were at the time, you know, “You can compromise on matters of policy, but never compromise on matters of principle.” And I’ve always tried to pursue that course, to act on matters of principle as they underpin issues of policy.

Martin Patriquin profiled Mr. Cotler for this magazine in 2012.

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