Euthanasia on trial? Supreme Court to hear Latimer appeal today

by Kevin Connor
The Winnipeg Sun (27 November 1996)

If Canada's top court doesn't put away a man who killed his disabled child as an act of mercy, euthanasia could start to become a trend, local disability advocates say.

Today the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the appeal of Saskatchewan's Robert Latimer who was convicted of murdering his daughter Tracy, who suffered from cerebral palsy. At issue is how police obtained a confession from Latimer.

Latimer admits to killing his 12-year old daughter in Oct. 1993 with carbon monoxide to end her suffering. He was found guilty of second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for parole for 10 years.

Parents don't have the right to perform mercy killing on their children just because they are disabled says Jim Derksen, a Winnipeg human rights activist.

"Anything less than a conviction will send a dangerous public method," Derksen said.

"If he's acquitted for any reason, the Supreme Court is saying it has sympathy for him. It would be validating hostile attacks on disabled people."

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities is only looking for justice for Tracy, said Hugh Scher, chairman of the CCD human rights committee.

"We have no direct interest in the elements the court is specifically considering—the admissibility of Latimer's confession and the allegation of alleged jury tampering." Scher said.

If Latimer is acquitted the CCD wants it to be on technicalities.

"Otherwise they will be saying a life with a disability isn't worth living," said Winnipeg's Laurie Beachell, the national coordinator for the CCD.

Disability groups say they will closely be monitoring the proceedings.