Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 17, 2007
Sympathy for Latimer disturbing foe disabled
Murderer being portrayed as victim – advocates
"Apparently it's a disgrace to imprison the killer of a person with a disability."
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
The decision to deny parole to Robert Latimer, who murdered his 12-year-old disabled daughter Tracey in 1993, has prompted an outpouring of sympathy for the Saskatchewan farmer.
This outpouring has sent a chill through the disabled community and alarmed anti-euthanasia groups.
"It's a scary time to be disabled (as I am)," wrote disabled rights activist Mark Pickup
Dec. 6 on his blog Human Life Matters (humanlifematters.blogspot.com). "Apparently it's a disgrace to imprison the killer of a person with a disability."
In editorials, op ed pieces and letters to the editor, a groundswell of support paints Latimer as a hero of conscience who put his daughter out of her misery out of compassion.
Quality of life
Pickup and Jim Derksen of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities are challenging the narrative portraying Tracey's quality of life as so dismal that her father was doing her a favour by killing her.
"Her father, the murderer, was portrayed as a victim," Derkson said prior to Latimer's parole hearing, according to the Dec. 6 Globe and Mail.
Pickup pointed out that Tracey, far from being bed-ridden, travelled on a regular school bus with her siblings and other children every weekday, "right up to the Friday before she was killed."
"Tracey was not in constant pain as has been widely reported throughout the years," he wrote. "At Robert Latimer's trial it was clearly established that her pain was intermittent."
"She loved music, sleigh rides, television, games, parties, the circus, sleepovers and pets. Tracey adored her family and her face would brighten at the very sight of them. She did not have the mental capacity of a four-month-old infant - another inaccuracy widely reported," he wrote.
Three members of the National Parole Board denied Robert Latimer day parole Dec. 5, noting he was not repentant for Tracey's murder.
Latimer told the board that he believed he had done nothing wrong, because of his daughter's constant pain.
Latimer has served seven years of a minimum 10-year sentence for asphyxiating Tracey in the cab of his truck in 1993.
The crime set off an ongoing debate about mercy killing. Many, including Canadian Civil Liberties Association's Alan Borovoy, want the law changed to reflect the "compassion" in Latimer's motive.
No right to kill
"Latimer got a life sentence because he took the life of his daughter," said Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) director Michele Boulva.
"Giving him conditional liberation now at a time when people are discussing assisted suicide and euthanasia, would send a message that it is okay to take vulnerable life."
"Every human being no matter how handicapped has a right to respect for their life," she said, noting that there should never be "a right to kill."
Boulva, however, also noted how the Latimer case is "a reminder of the great, great suffering of so many Canadian families that have handicapped children and our responsibility as a society to support them in as many ways as we can so that life might be preserved and celebrated."
"Would Robert Latimer be a folk hero and enjoy the support of a majority of Canadians if Tracey had been a healthy child?" Pickup asked. "No, I don't think so."
Latimer must wait another two years before applying for day parole again. In the meantime, he is taking courses in prison and runs his farm remotely from his prison cell while his wife raises their other children.