CCD Ready for Supreme Court's Decision in Latimer Case This Thursday

(4 February 1997) — When the decision comes down in Robert Latimer's appeal, Irene Feika, a past Chairperson of CCD will be in Ottawa and available to the media to present the perspective of Canadians with disabilities in this case. Ms. Feika has her own personal experience with disability, is the mother of a daughter and an adopted daughter who both have disabilities and has worked extensively with multiply handicapped children. Coincidentally, Ms. Feika is also an executive member of the International Network on Human Rights and is in Ottawa to work with the Network on advancing the human rights of children with disabilities.

"To our shame, the killing of a disabled child took place, not too long ago, right here in Canada. Tracy Latimer was denied her basic right to live only because she had disabilities. Children do not ask to be born and once here they deserve to have a decent quality of life. This is as true for children with disabilities as it is for their able-bodied peers." states Ms. Feika.

"Why is it that so many shudder with horror when Nazi Germany's death camps are discussed, but publicly support the killing of Tracy Latimer." She did not ask to be born with multiple disabilities, nor did she ask to be put to death. She should have had the right to a life of quality just like any other child in Canadian society," adds Ms. Feika.

To contact Ms. Feika phone 613-241-1000.

CCD hopes that the Court will reject Latimer's the appeal and uphold the conviction. However, CCD recognizes that other verdicts are a possibility. The most likely scenario is that a new trial will be ordered by the Supreme Court.

If this is the case, CCD will be urging the Saskatchewan Crown to act immediately to initiate proceedings for a first degree murder trial of Robert Latimer. The Crown cannot be allowed to renege on its public commitment to hold a new trial in this case.

CCD holds the position that the murder of a person with a disability must be treated exactly the same as any other murder. As Latimer clearly premeditated Tracy's killing, a first degree murder trial is the only appropriate course of action from CCD's point of view.

The CCD Human Rights Committee met on 21 November 1996 to discuss the human rights implications of Latimer's appeal. The Committee agreed that if the Court does not uphold the original conviction, the Saskatchewan Crown must proceed with a new trial. "To ensure that justice is done for Tracy Latimer and to ensure that the lives of other children with disabilities are not devalued, it is essential that the Saskatchewan Crown undertake a new trial to demonstrate that one law applies to all people," said Hugh Scher, Chairperson of CCD's Human Rights Committee.

A Slippery Slope

In 1993, the Saskatchewan Voice informed CCD of Tracy Latimer's murder and by 1995 CCD and the Voice had achieved intervenor status in Robert Latimer' appeal of his murder conviction. When CCD began its work on this issue, discussion focused on the slippery slope argument and how a failure to convict Robert Latimer for murder would put more people with disabilities in jeopardy.

Since Tracy's murder, the community of persons with disabilities has become aware of the murders of Ryan Wilkieson, Katie Lynn Baker, Charles Blais, Andrea Halpin and Ronald Lambert. In reality, we have begun already to move down the slope. The murder of Tracy Latimer was not an isolated incident; and it will keep happening until society wakes up and begins to punish the murderers of people with disabilities with the full force of the law.

CCD Monitoring Cases in BC and Manitoba

Canadians only have to look to the Baker and Lambert cases to see that our society acts one way when a nondisabled person's rights are violated and another way when the rights of a person with a disability are violated.

Ten year old Katie Lynn Baker, who had Rhett syndrome, died on 28 May 1996 after refusing to eat or drink. She had lost one-third of her body weight in the three months before her death.

Katie's principal Clive Hickson saw her on 13 May 1997 and thought that she looked like a "concentration camp victim." According to the Vancouver Sun, despite the fact that he thought she was going to die, the school principal delayed two days to contact social workers.

According to Hickson, Katie's lips were completely pulled back, her face gaunt and pale, her eyes sunken and her hands gnarled. If a school principal encountered a nondisabled child in this condition, it is guaranteed that an ambulance would be called. Coroner Robert Graham indicates that principals have the right to call an ambulance on behalf of a student who is ill.

Despite the fact that Ronald Lambert's killer confessed his actions to a variety of people in authority, it took 19 years for Manitoba's justice system to respond and it has only responded in a half hearted fashion. Ronald Lambert, 11, was smothered to death by a nurses aid in a Manitoba institution. Lambert's killer is serving the minimum sentence for his crime and those who covered up the crime have so far only been criticized by the presiding judge. In cases of sexual harassment, we see managers, as well as the perpetrators, being called upon to share the burden of responsibility for not maintaining a workplace environment that respects gender equality. Similarly, people with disabilities expect the justice system to do more than give a verbal slap on the wrist to those who cover-up the killing of people with disabilities.

Spokespersons Available Across Canada

Members of CCD's Human Rights Committee are available to comment on the Latimer case.

Hugh Scher—Mr. Scher, who has a law practice in Toronto, is the Chairperson of CCD's Human Rights Committee. (Tel: 416-515-9686)

Catherine Frazee—Ms. Frazee is a past Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and a member of CCD's Human Rights Committee. (Tel: 416-924-5502)

Gregor Wolbring—Mr. Wolbring is a member of CCD's Human Rights Committee and an international advocate on fundamental human rights issues. (Tel: 403-220-5448)

Jim Derksen—Mr. Derksen is a past Chairperson of CCD and has worked extensively at both the national and international level to advance the human rights of persons with disabilities. (Tel:204-947-0303 (days); 204-786-7937 (evenings)

Pat Danforth—Ms. Danforth is a former Provincial Coordinator of the Saskatchewan Voice of Persons with Disabilities. (Tel: 306-787-2426)

Laurie Beachell—Mr. Beachell is CCD's National Coordinator and he is also available for comment (204-947-0303), as are all CCD's member groups: BCCPD (604-875-0188), ACCD (403-488-9088), SVOPD (306-569-3111), MLPD (204-943-6099), COPHAN (514-943-3995), NSLEO (902-455-6942), PEICOD (902-892-9149), CODNFLD&LB (709-722-7011), CAD (613-526-4785), DAWN Canada (604-873-1564), NEADS (613-526-8008), NNMH (613-567-4494) TVAC (519-681-0357), PF (416-920-9530).

The Tracy Fund has been set up to ensure the Council of Canadians with Disabilities can speak out on cases where disabled people have been murdered. . Support us by sending a donation to: The Tracy Fund c/o CCD, 926-294 Portage Ave.,Winnipeg, MB R3C 0B9. To help promote the fundamental human rights of persons with disabilities, contribute to the Tracy Fund. (CCD, 926-294 Portage Ave., Winnipeg MB, R3C 0B9.)