Last weekend, Global Television Network in Canada featured a documentary about so-called mercy killing of children. The very fact that such a topic is even entertained on national television reveals something about the moral state of my country.
|Annette Corriveau (R)|
The second case featured on the Global documentary was that of Robert Latimer. He is the Saskatchewan farmer who murdered his disabled daughter Tracy back in 1993. She had cerebral palsy. A protracted legal saga ensued in Canada that eventually saw him him convicted of second degree murder. I will not go through the details of the trials.
What shocked me during the time that the case moved through various legal avenues, up to and including Canada's Supreme Court, was the sympathy and support Robert Latimer enjoyed from the courts, media and general public in ways he would not have had if he had murdered one of his healthy children. I was shocked because I did not fully realize at that time what low regard Canadians have for people with serious disabilities!
A trust fund was established for Robert Latimer's legal costs; it received close to $100,000 from across Canada! Many Canadians felt that Robert Latimer should not serve any time for killing his disabled daughter. Television interviews with people on streets of Canadian cities revealed stunning levels of public support for Robert Latimer. One man said that Latimer did a favour for his daughter by killing her. Others thought he did what was best for Tracy and should not have been charged with a crime. The judge Latimer's first trial issued an unprecedented "constitutional exemption" to Robert Latimer. Members of the jury in Latimer's second trial asked that he serve no more than one year in prison. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association petitioned the Justice Minister to reject Latimer's second degree sentence. Public opinion polls consistently revealed that over 70% of Canadians supported euthanasia for the terminally and chronically ill and assisted suicide for the disabled. Disabled people like me began to understand that the lives of chronically ill and disabled Canadians are viewed as having less worth than healthy Canadians and not deserving the same legal protections as the rest of the population.
In the Global TV program last weekend, journalist Jennifer Tryon said that the Latimer pitted morality against law. That is a view but not in the way Latimer and Tryon might think. Many of us within Canada's disability community believed it was profoundly immoral to murder Tracy Latimer and show lenience toward her killer in ways that would not have been shown if Latimer killed one of his healthy children.
There is a seething undercurrent of hostility against Canadians with disabilities -- and that hostility extends to children.