Hugh Scher Raises Concerns with CBC

[21 October, 1998]

October 16, 1998

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
250 Front Street West
Toronto, ON M5W 1E6

Attention: Heather Spiller, National Assignment Editor

Dear Ms. Spiller:
Re: Airing of Feature Film—"At the End of the Day"—The Sue Rodriguez Story

I am writing with respect to the proposed airing of the feature film, "At the End of the Day"—The Sue Rodriguez Story, which is scheduled for Sunday, October 18, 1998. While I am not in a position to comment on the substance of this film, I am extremely concerned about the timing for its scheduled presentation.

As you will be aware, the appeal in the Robert Latimer murder case is scheduled to be heard by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal on October 19, 1998. There has been much confusion over the issues raised in the Latimer case with those pertaining to Sue Rodriguez's request for an assisted suicide and her case before the Supreme Court of Canada. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities believes that this confusion has contributed to the difficulty of conducting an informed debate about the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide in a way that is not threatening to the lives of people with disabilities.

While the Council takes no issue with the CBC's airing of a feature on the final days of Sue Rodriguez's life, we do believe that the timing of this presentation will serve to increase the confusion about the issues of murder, euthanasia and assisted suicide which are perceived as common to both the Rodriguez and Latimer situations. For these reasons, the Council would request that the CBC consider postponing the broadcast of the feature film until after the Latimer appeal has been heard and determined. We believe that this would be consistent with the CBC's mandate to ensure balanced reporting and unbiased dialogue with respect to the issues raised by the Latimer and Rodriguez situations.

If the CBC is unable to postpone the airing of the above-noted film, it is our request that the Council and other representatives of the community be ensured the opportunity to address the public in an effort to clarify any confusion that may exist with respect to debate on the issues of euthanasia, assisted suicide and murder as they relate to these two cases, through the media of the CBC on the day of and time following the hearing of the Latimer appeal, as well as at the time that the decision is rendered in this matter.

As you will appreciate, many parents are looking to what happens to Robert Latimer in terms of how they deal with caring for their own severely disabled children. As a national umbrella group of disability organizations from across Canada, it is our mandate to educate the public about issues concerning people with disabilities, particularly in situations where the lives of people with disabilities may be put at risk. For these reasons, I am asking you to give careful consideration to postponing the presentation on Sue Rodriguez's life and to ensuring that the perspective of the disability community in Canada is represented in your reporting of the Robert Latimer murder appeal. To this end, II have enclosed a list of representatives who CCD has put forward to speak about the impact of the Latimer case on the lives of people with disabilities.

I thank you for your consideration and attention to this matter. Should you have questions with respect to the above, or if I can be of any assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours very truly,

Hugh R. Scher
Council of Canadians with Disabilities
Human Rights Committee Chairperson

cc: Perrin Beatty, President and CEO

CBC Replays Hana Gartner Interview with Latimers

On 28 November 1997, the Latimer Watch presented Jim Derksen's critique of Hana Gartner's interview with the Latimers. Following the re-broadcast of this interview with a brief interview with Bev Boehm of the Saskatchewan Voice of Persons with Disabilities did nothing to address the concerns outlined by Mr. Derksen:

...The National Magazine interview with Robert and Laura Latimer will have the effect of promulgating and supporting values, attitudes and a social climate conducive to acts of violence against a target group of devalued people. In its outcome the interview is similar to a hate crime. It is unfortunate, for the target group of disabled people, and for us all, that unlike a hate crime, this kind of broadcast is perfectly legal.

The CBC would surely not give a murderous spousal abuser, or gay basher, a 20 minute national podium from which to persuade the Canadian public his/her rationalizations for his/her crimes were valid. Why has CBC given this child murder such an opportunity?

I would like to know why the CBC National Magazine allowed the murderer to represent the best interests of his victim? Where were the voices of people who have experienced forms of disability and surgeries similar to those of Tracy?...

Those of us with tracheotomies so that we can breathe with mechanical assistance, with gastrostomies so that we can eat through feeding tubes, with skeletons surgically altered so that we can live in health without pain, say to Robert Latimer that we are not mutilated, not tormented, not terrorized. We have been helped; Tracy has been murdered.

Send comments to: The National, CBC Toronto, PO Box 500 Station A, Toronto, ON M5W 1E6.