Liberal MP Irwin Cotler to retire in 2015
Published Wednesday, February 5, 2014 12:19PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 5, 2014 1:28PM EST
Veteran Liberal MP and former minister of justice Irwin Cotler announced Wednesday that he will not be running in next year's federal election.
Appearing at a news conference with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and members of the Liberal Caucus, Cotler said Wednesday afternoon that he considered it an "honour and privilege" to serve his constituents in the Montreal-area riding of Mount Royal.
"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 'Son, this is the Parliament of Canada. This is vox populi,'" Cotler said. "I have retained that respect, indeed reverence, for Parliament as an institution."
Cotler was first elected to the House of Commons in a 1999 byelection, winning 92 per cent of the vote.
He recalled some advice former prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who once represented the riding, once gave him early on in his career.
"His words still resonate for me, which were at the time 'You can compromise on matters of policy, but never compromise on matters of principle,'" he said. "I've always tried to pursue that course."
Cotler thanked the members of the Liberal Caucus, his staff, volunteers who supported him over the years and his family. He hinted that a desire to spend more time with his loved ones was one of the reasons why he was stepping down.
"This is what I have to look forward to, making common cause with the next generation," he said smiling, as he held up a photo of his newest grandchild.
Cotler's upcoming retirement means the long-held Liberal riding will have a new Liberal candidate running in 2015.
While he initially was elected in Mount Royal with a high percentage of the vote, Cotler saw it gradually decline in subsequent elections. By the 2011 election his share of the vote had dropped to 41 per cent.
But Trudeau said he isn't worried because he anticipates many high-quality candidates will run to take Cotler's place.
Trudeau said that it's the Conservatives who should be concerned -- not just with winning one riding, but with winning all of the ridings.
"They should be extremely concerned because we're coming back," he said in French.
Cotler served as minister of justice and attorney general from 2003 to 2006, and is widely respected for his work in human rights.
Some of his accomplishments as justice minister include introducing Canada's first law to combat human trafficking and helping to craft the Civil Marriage Act, which extended marriage equality to gays and lesbians.
Late last year, he was chosen to represent the Liberals at Nelson Mandela's funeral.
Cotler said that he will continue to remain active in his community and looks forward to lecturing and writing on the topic of human rights after he retires.