If we accept the principle that universal human rights are worth embracing, then all human life must be included within this ideal. That's what "universal" means. Human rights begin when human life begins and ends with life's natural conclusion. Anything else is either ignorance or sophistry and bigotry." -- Mark Davis Pickup
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
The case of Robert Latimer: Justice denied
Seven years into his second-degree murder conviction, child-killer and Canadian folk-hero, Robert Latimer won day parole today. In Canada, second degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for at least ten years. (The jury at his trial recommended he only serve one year.) Happily the sentence was mandatory, but he still gets out three years earlier than minimum requirements. Hey, who’s counting?
Actually Canada’s disability community, their advocates and allies were counting. You see, Canadian courts tend to be easy on killers of the disabled. Seven out of ten Canadians support Robert Latimer. Seventy percent of Canadians agree with assisted suicide for the chronically ill and disabled.
Canadian citizens with disabilities and incurable illnesses needed re-assurance that we are seen as deserving of equal legal protections as able-bodied Canadians. We didn’t get it.
Disability community responds
Jim Derksen of the Council for Canadians with Disabilities told CBC News, "I worry that the public will understand this parole as some kind of sanction of what he [Robert Latimer] did."
Craig Langston, the president of the Cerebral Palsy Association of B.C., worried other parents would follow Latimer's lead: "I think it sends a scary message that parents can decide that taking a life of their child is the right thing to do," he said. "The preservation of life should be the first concern."
Although it was clearly established early on that the murder of Tracey Latimer was premeditated, it was doubtful any trial would convict him of first degree murder. Latimer was eventually convicted by a reluctant, sympathetic jury to second degree murder which carries a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for at least ten years. Now he does not even serve the minimum requirements of the lesser sentence!
Canada is increasingly hostile to its incurably ill and disabled people, like me.
Canada’s National Parole Board reversed an earlier decision to deny Latimer’s day parole application, and granted it. They consider him a low risk to society. I suppose that’s true – he has no more disabled children to put out of his misery.
Still, one wonders why we even have minimum sentences for crimes when offenders are not required to serve them. (?) Then again, why should I be surprised? That's the appalling and unjust nature of Canadian justice.