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Irwin Cotler, former Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, speaks as he is recognized for his work at the Antisemitism: Face It, Fight It conference in Ottawa on Oct. 17.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler, an outspoken advocate for human rights, is under 24-hour police protection because of a threat to his life, two sources say.

The Globe and Mail was not able to learn who or what organization or country poses the threat to Mr. Cotler. The Globe is not identifying the sources because they are not authorized to speak on the matter.

The RCMP did not immediately respond to questions about the threat to the former politician.

Mr. Cotler failed to show up for a Monday event at The Globe and Mail in Toronto where the son of jailed Hong Kong publisher Jimmy Lai was presenting the screening of a documentary about his father.

The former Montreal MP, an international human-rights lawyer, has criticized many foreign governments, including Iran for its conduct in the 2020 shooting-down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which left about 55 Canadians and 30 permanent residents dead, as well as Tehran’s funding of Hamas. Hamas, designated a terrorist group by the Canadian government, carried out the Oct. 7 attacks against Israel that left about 1,200 Israelis dead, and hundreds taken hostage.

Mr. Cotler also recently served as Canada’s special envoy on Holocaust remembrance and combatting antisemitism from 2020 to 2023, warning of a massive rise in antisemitism.

Last month in a column in The Globe he attacked “Russia, China, Iran and its terrorist proxies – Hamas and Hezbollah – and North Korea,” which he said together “comprise a new authoritarian ‘axis of evil.’ ” He warned that authoritarian regimes are waging a war against Western countries: United States, Canada, Australia and many European countries, “through three primary methods – electoral interference, transnational repression, and the spreading of harmful disinformation.”

Canada has been a target of transnational repression.

As The Globe first reported, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later confirmed, Ottawa believes the Indian government is behind the June, 2023, gangland-style slaying of Canadian Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an outspoken advocate for a group that wants Punjab to secede from India.

An unsealed criminal indictment in New York last week echoed the allegations made by Mr. Trudeau.

U.S. authorities said their investigation of a foiled scheme to kill a Canadian-American Sikh activist in New York has uncovered apparent links to the killing of Mr. Nijjar, as well as an alleged plot by the Indian government to conduct a string of assassinations in Canada.

In 2015, Mr. Cotler founded the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, a Montreal-based organization dedicated to promoting human rights, advocating for political prisoners and combatting injustice around the world. The group works in the memory of Mr. Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who saved 100,000 Jews during the Second World War by issuing them diplomatic passports and sheltering them in safe houses.

In his Nov. 15 Globe column Mr. Cotler wrote Canadians “are once again facing a bipolar world, not between two superpowers, but between two ideological alliances – liberal democracies and repressive autocrats, who are engaged in an assault on the rules-based international order.”

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