The human rights icons, Irwin Cotler and Payam Akhavan, will have an important conversation about how the Holocaust impacted human rights to the present day and what the future may hold.

Moderated by recent Order of Canada recipient and award-winning investigative journalist, Hana Gartner.

Irwin Cotler

Irwin Cotler is a former Member of Parliament (1999 to 2015), Minister of Justice, Attorney General of Canada, Professor of Law at McGill University (and director of its Human Rights Program), recipient of eleven honorary doctorates, Officer of the Order of Canada, and Past President of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

Irwin has served on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and its sub-Committee on Human Rights and International Development, as well as on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. In 2000, he was appointed special advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the International Criminal Court. He is considered an expert on international law and human rights law.


As an international human rights lawyer, Irwin served as counsel to former prisoners of conscience Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Jacobo Timmerman in Latin America, Muchtar Pakpahan in Asia, as well as other well known political prisoners and dissidents

Irwin was chief counsel to the Canadian Jewish Congress at the Deschênes Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals, and is on the Board of Advancing Human Rights (NGO), a member of MEMRI's Board of Advisors, an Honorary Member of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Genesis Prize Foundation. Irwin has spoken at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy on several occasions.

On December 12, 2003, Prime Minister Paul Martin appointed Irwin to Cabinet as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.  One of the central challenges for Irwin during his time as Justice Minister was to address concerns about terrorism while guarding against arbitrary and unnecessary limits on rights. As Minister of Justice, Irwin tabled Canada's first-ever National Justice Initiative Against Racism.

In 2013, Irwin was chosen to represent the Liberal Party of Canada at the Funeral of Nelson Mandela in deference to the work he did for and with Nelson Mandela in fighting Apartheid

Payam Akhavan is a McGill University Professor, the author of best-seller “In Search of a Better World: A Human Rights Odyssey,” an International Lawyer, and Senior Fellow to the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.

Payam teaches and researches public international law, international dispute settlement, international criminal law, human rights and cultural pluralism. He received the degree of Doctor of the Science of Jurisprudence from Harvard Law School and, prior to joining McGill, was a Senior Fellow at Yale Law School, and a UN prosecutor at The Hague. 

In 2017, Payam delivered the CBC Massey Lectures, "In Search of a Better World. A Human Rights Odyssey," and his companion book was the number one bestseller (non-fiction) in Canada.

Payam has published extensively in leading journals, wrote the Report on the Work of the Office of the Special Advisor of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, served as Chairman of the Global Conference on the Prevention of Genocide, and is Co-Producer of the documentary film “Genos.Cide: The Great Challenge.”  His book “Reducing Genocide to Law: Definition, Meaning, and the Ultimate Crime,” has been endorsed by the former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court as “a profound re-thinking of efforts to transform global aspirations into reality.”

Payam was the first Legal Advisor to the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda at The Hague. He has also served in the field with the UN in Bosnia, Croatia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Timor Leste, and Rwanda. Payam is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and the New York State bar, and has appeared as counsel and advocate in leading cases before the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Supreme Courts of Canada and the United States.

Additionally, Payam is a founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, Prosecutor of the Iran People’s Tribunal, a member of the UK Child Sexual Abuse People’s Tribunal, and a contributor to the activities of numerous non-governmental organizations and grassroots survivors’ groups. 

Payam Akhavan
Hana Gartner

Hana Gartner is a retired Canadian investigative journalist, best known as the host/interviewer of several programs for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

In 1974, Hana joined CBC as a TV news anchor, and worked on a program called "In Good Company." She became host of CBC Radio's "This Country in the Morning" and, the following year, was co-host of both the CBC's local newscast in Toronto and the network's afternoon public affairs program.

In 1982, Hana became co-host of the CBC's prime time TV newsmagazine, "The Fifth Estate." In 1994, she was given her own interview series titled  "Contact with Hana Gartner." In 1995, she became co-host of CBC's flagship newshour, "The National," and hosted the National Magazine portion of the programme (which consisted of interviews, extended features and documentaries). In 2000, Hana left The National and returned to "The Fifth Estate," where she worked for the next eleven years. On May 11, 2011, Gartner announced her retirement from the CBC.

Hana has won five Gemini Awards, and has been nominated 18 times in Gemini hosting, anchoring, and interviewing categories during her career. She has also twice won the special Gemini Gordon Sinclair Award for excellence in broadcast journalism in 1985 and 2006, and, was nominated in 2011 for a Michener Award for her story about a troubled teen who died while in the Ontario corrections system.

In 2019, Hana was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada.


Liberation75 is the world's largest international event to mark the 75th anniversary of liberation from the Holocaust.

Join thousands of others as we commit to fighting antisemitism and continuing Holocaust education and remembrance.


Liberation75 was originally planned for May 31-June 2, 2020 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Due to COVID-19, Liberation75 will occur virtually from May 4-9, 2021.


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