More Families Respond

[19 November 1997]

I find it hard to add anything 'new' to the discussion about the Latimer trial, in view of the powerful contributions that have already been made by everyone from Teague Johnson to Cheryl Eckstein. But I also believe that it's important to add our voice to the other voices of families and friends.

We are parents of a child who might be described the way Tracy has been described in the course of her trial (sorry, her father's trial). If Robert Latimer goes free, it means three things:

1. It was Tracy who was on trial, not her father. From now on, we'll judge whether murder (or abuse, or neglect, or rape, or any other violation) has even "occurred" based on a judgment about the value, goodness, or degree of humanness of the victim.

2. We'll let people get away with murder as long as we can 'understand' why the killer did what he did, and if we can imagine ourselves doing the same thing in the same circumstances.

3. It's open season on children and adults with disabilities.

David & Faye Wetherow, and Amber Svingen
Parksville, British Columbia

The truth always takes the form of a question.

— Peter Hoeg, Danish Dreams

Widespread Support for Robert Latimer Seen by Disabled Man as Hostility toward the Disabled

By Mark Pickup

I have been shocked by events that unfolded around the Robert Latimer case in the killing of his 12 year old handicapped daughter, Tracy. I am not alone. The disabled community in Canada was shocked not only by the deed of Robert Latimer-and it vas a horrible betrayal of parental trust -but we were staggered at the outpouring of public support for Robert Latimer. At the time of his original trial, a trust fund was established to help Robert Latimer pay legal bills. It attracted tens of thousands of dollars in donations from coast to coast. When he was convicted of second degree murder, thousands of Canadians signed a petition asking the federal government to shorten his 10-year sentence.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association asked the federal Justice Minister to revoke Latimer's sentence. The Edmonton Journal (18/11/94, A1) ran the front-page headline "Latimer to appeal conviction that many call unjust". One man on the street commented: "This man [Robert Latimer] did a favor for his daughter."

Many people thought that Robert Latimer "did what he thought was best for his daughter" and that he should not have been charged with murder. The revelation of such wide spread support for the killing of a handicapped child was like a slap across the face of people like me by the justice system, and our fellow able-bodied citizens.

Lesser citizens:

Why? The case of Tracy Latimer brought to surface a seething societal hostility toward imperfect human life. We, the disabled of Canada, the imperfect, heard loud and clear that we are worth less than healthy citizens. No! Let me be blunter: imperfect life is as cheap as grass, to be mowed down to tidy up a country that wishes we were not here. Indeed, I was horrified that so many of our able-bodied, fellow Canadians held the disabled in such low regard. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities published a poster. On one side was a picture of Tracy Latimer, on one side said, in part: "We all live under the same sky! We all live under the same law! An able-bodied person murders an able-bodied person ....MURDER is cried from the rooftops!! An able-bodied person murders a disabled person ... MERCY KILLING is whispered in the streets?"

Indeed! It's a scary time to be disabled...

Afraid of my own Country!

I am afraid of a Canada that embraces physician-assisted death in law, public policy or public opinion. Such a shift in cultural ethos would irrevocably change the character of Canada and place people like me at risk of assisted death. I am disabled with chronic, degenerative multiple sclerosis. My next address may be a nursing home. I have nothing to offer society.

Defining moment

Many of us within the disabled community will be watching the re-trial of Robert Latimer with keen interest as a defining moment in Canadian law: Are we "equal before and under the law" with able-bodied Canadians? Can we expect "equal protection as our Constitution declares? Is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms a pretty document to hang on a wall-but a legal sham?

Dying with Dignity Replies to Sobsey and Wolbring

November 5/97

Dear Mr. Beachell,

Your letter of October 30 is disturbing (See Latimer Watch 3/11/97). You imply a callousness towards the disabled on my part that is simply not there.

I was asked by a reporter to respond to a specific question on a specific case - that of Robert Latimer. I replied that it might well be difficult for Mr. Latimer to get a fair trial because of the interference, as I saw it, coming from groups presuming to speak for all the disabled. I would have said the same thing if groups advocating for the right-to-die movement were as vocal.

I remain, as always, a firm advocate for choice and a supporter of those who suffer. I am not your enemy.

Yours truly,

Marilynne Seguin
Dying with Dignity