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By ALEX ARENSON Goodbye to Irwin Cotler M.P. I understand he won’t be seeking re-election in the Montreal riding of Mount Royal, which he has represented since 1999.

I remember hearing him speak around 1980 at the Rosh Pina Synagogue. He was a well-known human rights lawyer. He gave an impassioned speech about Soviet Prisoners of Conscience Ida Nudel and Natan Sharansky.
He later turned to federal politics as a Liberal MP and Cabinet Minister. He was always a staunch supporter of Israel and Jewish causes. I’m sure he felt there was no contradiction between this and being a proud Canadian and supporter of Canadian values.
I’ve long been an admirer of his work and his support of Israel and human rights. So it is with heavy heart and some perplexity that I note his “abstentions” (more correctly, refusal to vote) in the October 7th, 2014 and March 30, 2015 House of Commons votes to support and extend a very limited Canadian military air-support role in the broad coalition fighting against the barbaric ISIL terrorist organization. The Liberal Party, despite the earlier contradictory position espoused by Bob Rae, and the strong support for military involvement by the likes of Lloyd Axworthy and Ambassador Gary Doer (our former NDP Premier in Manitoba), chose to align itself with the morally indefensible position of the NDP and oppose Canada’s limited military involvement.
 Given the intervening terrorist attacks on the two brave Canadian soldiers and given the massive outpouring of grief and outrage of ordinary Canadians, I would suggest that the Liberal Party’s position, so poorly articulated by Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons, is not only morally indefensible, but has already proven, and will continue to prove over the ensuing weeks and months, to be a very bad political calculation. Recent Ipsos Reid polls indicate that two-thirds of Canadians, including a majority of Liberal and NDP supporters, support the extension of the Canadian military mission against ISIL. Almost 70% of Canadians would support the deployment of Canadian soldiers on the ground in Iraq to prevent ISIL from getting its own state. They understand the moral imperative involved.
Perhaps Mr. Cotler was facing a political dilemma. But what an opportunity he had to take a principled stand and support the fight against ISIL! After the first vote Mr. Cotler asserted in his website that his abstention was “principled”. Mr. Cotler’s abstentions were not “principled”; they were cowardly. Abstentions are rarely principled.
Mr. Cotler cited various concerns about the details, or lack of same, of the proposed military involvement as justification for his abstention during the first vote. His excuse for the second abstention was concern about attacking ISIL positions in Syria. To an outside observer, these concerns are nitpicking. Nitpicking concerns aside, the choice should have been clear. Should Canada honour our own principles and values as a nation, as well as our commitment to support our major allies, and participate in a very limited military role (some may argue too limited) in the fight against ISIL or should we not? The Liberal and NDP position on this issue is morally bankrupt. Mr. Cotler knows this and that is why he didn’t vote “no”. But to abstain? Not a “principled” or brave thing to do.
The sad part is that given Mr. Cotler’s decision not to seek re-election, he had a perfect opportunity to do the right thing. He could have departed in a blaze of righteousness. Instead he took a dive.