MONTREAL (Nov. 9)
Avitol Shcharansky, wife of the imprisoned Soviet Jewish activist, Anatoly Shcharansky, and McGill low professor Irwin Cotler, legal counsel for Shcharansky, urged the Canadian government to “take a strong stand at Madrid and hold the Soviet Union to account for its violations of the Helsinki Final Act.
In what a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reporter described as one of the most extensive and intensive and intensive round of discussions ever held, Cotler and Mrs. Shcharansky met with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, External Affairs Minister Mark MacGuigan and seven members of Trudeau’s cabinet, including Minister of Immigration Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce Herb Grey, and Secretary of State for Human Rights Matters Francis Fox. These meeting were held last Wednesday in Ottawa.
They also met with former External Affairs Minister Flora MacDonald and New Democratic leader Ed Broadbent, also Wednesday in Ottawa.
Cotler said Trudeau advised them that “you can be rested assured that Shcharansky’s name will remain on every agenda for discussion that we have with the Soviet Union on Human Rights matters.”
ASSURANCES ON SHCHARANSKY-CASE
MacGuigan, who is heading the Canadian delegation to Madrid, where the Helsinki accords will be reviewed at a conference beginning Tuesday, fold Cotler and Mrs. Shcharansky that “you have my personal commitment and that of my government to do whatever we can to release your husband from prison.”
MacDonald stated that the Shcharansky case had the complete support of her Progressive Conservative Party in both the Canadian Parliament and at Madrid where she is a member of the Canadian delegation.
Broadbent assured the group that he would raise the Shcharansky case at the meeting of the Socialist International which is taking place also in Madrid this week.
CANADA HAS SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Cotler said that he told the Canadian officials that Canada had a special responsibility to the “Shcharanskys” in the Soviet Union, because it was the Canadian government that was principally responsible for including in the Helsinki Final Act provisions regarding freedom of immigration, reunification of families and freedom of ideas.
“In effect, we told Shcharansky, Ida Nudel and others like them ‘exercise your rights, we will protect you.’ So they exercised their rights and now they find themselves in prison,” Cotler said. “Canada is not just another signatory. We have a special responsibility for those who are in prison because they took our undertaking seriously.”
Cotler, who also acts as legal counsel for both Nudel and Yosef Mendelevich, provided government officials with legal memoranda on their behalf for use at Madrid. At Cotler’s request, MacGuigan agreed to meet with Ilana Freedman, Nudel’s sister, during the Madrid meeting.