“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Still more about Robert Latimer

I have received threatening communications designed to intimidate me from writing or making posts that portray Robert Latimer in a negative light. Therefore, I am republishing an earlier article in fuller detail about the Robert Latimer case, complete with references. I don't submit to any form of intimidation or threats.

Secular Canada sympathizes with the so-called the “mercy-killer” Robert Latimer. His early release from his second degree murder conviction -- three years before the minimum parole requirement of his sentence -- is being celebrated. In releasing Latimer, the Canadian parole board said he is at a low risk to re-offend. This is probably true -- he has no more disabled children. The parole board also said he is not a threat to the community and this is likely true if there are no more DUI convictions.

Throughout the years since murdering his disabled daughter, Tracy, Robert Latimer has enjoyed the support of seventy percent of Canadians. Seven out of ten Canadians support euthanasia of the terminally and chronically ill, or severely disabled people.

At various times, Robert Latimer has been called a model citizen and referred to as “salt of the earth.” Most of this drivel will be addressed later in this article.
[1] But before people rush to lionize the man or bestow the Order of Canada upon him, perhaps we should pause to consider the case of Canada’s folk hero Robert Latimer. There was a side to the story that Canada’s mainstream media did not report, and some media outlets even suppressed.
Keep reading ....

Mark Pickup


Canada’s Folk Hero Robert Latimer

On October 24th 1993, Canadian farmer Robert Latimer decided it was time to kill his twelve-year old daughter. Tracy had cerebral palsy due to a lack of oxygen during her birth; she had undergone three successful surgeries to improve her quality of life. A fourth surgery was planned to ease pain from a dislocated hip. Despite the remarkable success of previous surgeries, her parents were horrified at the prospect of a fourth, and Robert Latimer decided to take matters into his own hands. His next action would set off a seven year ordeal involving two trials and numerous appeals, and spark public debate about mercy killing -- ultimately challenging the conscience of a nation.

Premeditation, cover-up, and lies
Robert Latimer planned his daughter’s murder for close to two weeks. He considered administering a drug overdose, or shooting Tracy in the head, but he finally settled on gassing her to death. (End of the road, kid.)[2] On a bright sunny Sunday his wife, Laura, and their other children went to church, leaving Tracy at home with Robert. He murdered her with exhaust fumes from his truck.

He took Tracy’s limp body, reeking with exhaust fumes, back to the farmhouse and put it in her bed (as though sleeping) for Laura or one of their other children to find when they got home. Everything worked according to plan: Laura discovered the corpse after coming home and preparing lunch. She cried that something was wrong with Tracy and called to her husband to phone for help. Robert called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), telling them Tracy had died in her sleep. The body was still in a sleeping pose when the RCMP arrived, and Robert told them again that Tracy died in her sleep. The police suspected a mercy killing and voiced their concerns to the coroner’s office.

Latimer destroyed evidence -- cutting up and burning the hose he used to murder Tracy. When he discovered that the police planned an autopsy of her body, he interjected and told them he wanted it cremated, which seemed to surprise his wife.

Robert pulled Laura into their bedroom: a few minutes later, they emerged and asked together for cremation. Robert continued to maintain that Tracy died in her sleep until the RCMP (with toxicology results showing lethal levels of carbon monoxide in her blood) finally coaxed a confession from him on November 4th -- ten days after the murder.

Only then did he own up to his actions:

"Laura went to church before eleven. So then I went outside, and the hose was in the old tin shed by the barn. . . . Then I went and got her, she was in the wheelchair, and took her to the shed [where the truck was parked]. . . . I had to cut the hose with the hack saw, hook it up to the exhaust … and put it in the back window, let it run. . . . After about 25 to twelve or so she made three or four coughing noises, she never started to cry, it was about seven or eight minutes when that happened, and that was about it. . . . I let it run 'till noon. I was timing all this stuff. There was a tractor tire in the back. I was sitting there watching through the back window. . . . At twelve o’clock I shut it off, put her back in bed. "
Laura Latimer stood by her man

What did Laura know about Robert’s intentions? He told police he shared his intentions for Tracy with Laura. During his 1993 confession, a police Sergeant asked: “For how long, Bob, had you thought about doing this?” Bob replied, “Well, pretty much decided after that doctor appointment.”

“That was?”
“October 12, approximately.”
“When did you discuss this with Laura?”
“We talked about it that night.”
“The 12th?”

Robert was asked what Laura thought about “it” [killing Tracy]. Robert answered, “She─no different than mine, she just said she wished she could call a Jack Kevorkian. She never participated in the planning. Just thoughts in general.”

Did this mean that Laura knew his murderous plan? Later, when police asked Robert why he chose October 24th to kill Tracy, he replied: “Oh, that’s the only occasion, I just knew it was one of the rare occasions.” Didn’t this also occur to Laura, particularly in light of their discussion about “it” twelve days earlier? There is some conflicting testimony about Laura’s knowledge.

In November of 1994 Robert Latimer went on trial for first degree murder. Although Laura was originally listed as a witness for the prosecution, she switched sides to the defence. She was the last defence witness to testify: “Her birth was way, way sadder than her death. We lost Tracy when she was born,” Laura stated.

A sympathetic jury would only convict Robert Latimer of second degree murder. He was given the mandatory sentence of no less than ten years in prison. He appealed his sentence all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ordered a retrial.

The second trial was a replay of the first. Laura told defence counsel that when police told her Robert confessed to killing Tracy, she was initially shocked and angry. However, Laura told the court she was happy to discover Tracy’s lifeless body. Was she expecting something? Laura said she was not aware Robert was up to murder when she left for church. Laura thought Tracy died of a seizure. When the RCMP was Robert if Laura knew he was going to kill Tracy when she left for church that fateful morning, he replied, “No.”

Laura did not grieve Tracy’s death: she said she grieved Tracy’s birth.” Laura collaborated with the defence team to paint Tracy’s life in the worst possible light of unremitting pain and anguish.

Police asked Robert if he told Laura what had happened when she arrived home from church. He said, “No.” Didn’t she wonder why her daughter’s room and body stank of exhaust fumes?[3] Why was Laura so quick to conclude the cause of death was a seizure when Tracy was prone to milder petit mals, not grand mal seizures.[4]

Laura said Robert was a “100 percent honest man.” Not true, as I have shown. It was Robert Latimer’s legal defence strategy to fixate on Tracy’s disability, her pain --not her abilities, happiness, and joys in life. Laura participated in the tragedy of the strategy. She persisted in downplaying Tracy’s humanity, only grudgingly admitting to the prosecution lawyer her daughter’s good times.

Tracy’s life was miserable:
That was Laura’s story and she tried to stick to it

Was Tracy’s life miserable? Was Tracy’s life unworthy of life? Was her life one of continual suffering, as defence lawyer Mark Brayford, Laura Latimer, and the media portrayed it? Did Tracy have no happiness, no joy? Did her life have no redeeming features?

Laura said in court that Tracy’s surgery left her utterly miserable:

"Tracy was in a lot of pain. Tracy was miserable. She used to be a happy little girl, and she’d turned into someone who just sat slumped, just waiting to be moved. She was --she was very unhappy. . . . She would sort of sit slumped in her chair. Once in a while she would kind of bat at a toy, but no, she was miserable, and it was getting -- it was getting harder and harder to even have her comfortable."

The image of Tracy painted at the trial and reported by the media was untrue. Misery and pain were not the sum total of Tracy Latimer’s life any more than misery and pain are the sum total of the lives of countless other people with severe disabilities. Tracy was a happy child.[5] She did have joy in her life -- the irrepressible joy of childhood -- despite her disability. She enjoyed music, sleigh rides, television, games, parties, the circus and pets. This was mentioned by various witnesses at the trial. Tracy was dressed as a princess the Halloween before she was murdered. On her last Easter, Laura wrote in Tracy’s communication book: “Brian and Lindsay [Tracy’s siblings] got up at 5:30 to hunt for eggs. We spent most of the day at Tracy’s cousin Lynn’s place. . . . Tracy spent a happy day, she ate a nice supper, and really enjoyed the desserts.”

At her little sister’s sleep-over, Tracy became too excited to sleep. She communicated and vocalized. Tracy had preferences and made choices. Tracy had a keen sense of mischief. Laura wrote about Tracy’s mischievousness:“Tracy was the worst girl at sleep-over, up at ten to seven, laughing and vocalizing.”[6] Tracy would take her dad’s glasses off his face, throw them and smile.” Laura said at the trial,

"She would sometimes -- her hands would touch his glasses, and she would -- her hands would close on them, and she would wave them around in the air, and he would say to her, ‘you’, just like you know she was naughty or something, and she would laugh and laugh. She used to --and then sometimes she would drop them, and she get a lot of pleasure out of that."[7]

Apparently seeing people grope for their glasses amused Tracy.

Laura wrote in Tracy’s communication book: “After supper, we had a bonfire and Tracy sat outside until about nine o’clock. It was a beautiful night. Tracy seemed alert and happy. . . .” Laura continued: "Tracy had a good weekend, sat out on the deck lots. Grandma and grandpa came yesterday, she’s so happy to see grandma.”

Tracy adored her family, her face brightened at the very sight of them. She went to a developmental centre each day for a regular school day. There were discussions about integrating her into the regular school system. She went to the developmental centre Monday to Friday and came home each day on the same school bus as her siblings and the other children, and did so right up to the Friday before her murder.

Tracy Latimer, like every other human being, had something to bring to the world. At one point

Apparently Tracy’s parents forgot what she taught them. They were tired, their patience had run out, there was a new baby in the house and it was time to move on with life.[8] Tracy’s father put her out of his misery.

Millions of disabled people have had misery in their lives. Many live alone, unloved, sometimes in pain. Sadly, that has been the reality for disabled people throughout history. But being miserable is not a reason to kill disabled people! If misery were a reason for death, not of us with disabilities would be safe. It would create open season on the disabled. The answer is not to kill us in a flimsy excuse of stopping misery or bestowing so-called death with dignity. The answer lies elsewhere: it lies in proper pain management,[9] and seeking life with dignity, and inclusion, especially for those who do not have it.

The murder of Tracy Latimer at the hands of her father, his callous timing of how long it took for her to die, his reluctance to take responsibility for his horrible deed, and his attempts to destroy evidence should have prompted public condemnation and made him a pariah. Au contraire! Robert Latimer became a kind of Canadian folk hero. Throughout the seven year legal ordeal in thre murder of Tracy, he enjoyed the support of over seventy percent of Canadians.[10]

Robert Latimer/Susan Smith
A year after Robert Latimer murdered his daughter, American Susan Smith put her car into a South Carolina lake, drowning her two little boys, Alex and Michael. Why was Susan Smith universally reviled after killing her children while Robert Latimer became a folk-hero after killing his child? The difference was this: Susan Smith killed her two healthy children while Robert Latimer killed one disabled child. Tracy was not cute: Michael and Alex Smith were adorable. What should we make of such a dramatic difference in public response? Are disabled children worth less than healthy children? Would Robert Latimer have been a folk-hero if Tracy was a healthy child?

Media blindness. Media deafness.
The Canadian media could not see past Tracy’s disability to the little girl who was. In her book, A Voice Unheard: The Latimer Case and People with Disabilities, Canadian author and disability advocate Ruth Enns made a revealing comment about the Canadian media anti-disability bias in reporting the Latimer case:

". . . [I]n the media coverage, she [Tracy] was less significant tan the person who killed her. Of the eighty headlines only twenty-five mentioned nor alluded to Tracy. Of those, only seven identified her simply by name or as a daughter, girl or child: . . . Only three of the eighty headlines referred to Tracy [sic] without some negative qualifier, as in the CP article in the Montreal Gazette, “Father had no choice but to kill girl."[11]

The media ignored extensive court testimony revealing Tracy’s humanity, happiness and joys. One must conclude that there was an intentional suppression of information that warped the notion of balanced reporting about Tracy’s life. Inaccurate exaggerations about her pain persist to this day, even though it was clearly established that it was intermittent. It was obvious that she had more intelligence than -- as was widely reported -- a four month old baby. It was as though the media revealed its own disabilities: blindness and deafness to the humanity of Tracy Latimer. Tracy did not get a voice; she became an “it.”

Disabled people who opposed Robert Latimer were given sparse coverage while the media sought out those few people with disabilities who agreed with him. The Canadian public was presented with a desperate view of Tracy Latimer and this contributed to the massive public support he still enjoys. This public support was actually part of his last appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, for a constitutional exemption from the mandatory sentence for second degree murder.

The indictment of Canada stood for all to see. From the beginning of the investigation, Robert Latimer enjoyed a climate of support and sympathy -- from the initial police investigation to jury decisions. One appeal judge called Latimer “typical salt of the earth . . . a devoted family man . . . loving, caring nurturing.” He referred to Tracy as “tragically disfigured” and “born clinically dead and need[ed] to be resuscitated” and thereafter lived in constant pain.

This judge also said “the appellant has no criminal record.”[12] But he knew better. The appeal judge was Chief Justice E.D. Bayda, who was no stranger to Latimer, having presided over a 1974 rape trial of Robert Latimer. In May of that year, a Saskatchewan jury found the then 21 year old Latimer guilty of rape of a 15 year old girl in the small town of Wilkie on September 8th 1973. Based upon a technicality, the sentence was overthrown on appeal, effectively quashing the public record of Latimer’s rape conviction.[13]

Things took a bizarre twist when prosecution lawyer from the first trial, Randy Kirkham, was charged with jury irregularities and the case was, as stated above, ultimately appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.[14] In February of 1996, the high court ordered a retrial, which commenced in October of 1997.

Mood of the second trial

Latimer’s second trial was on the lesser charge of second degree murder; the second jury was even more sympathetic to Robert. Although the jury reluctantly convicted him of second degree murder, they recommended a sentence less than the minimum allowed by law and that he be eligible for parole after one year. Latimer’s legal counsel then applied for a constitutional exemption based upon Section 12 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms: “Everyone has the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.”

The mother of another girl with cerebral palsy attended the trial. Charlotte Cooper of Stony Plain Alberta was horrified. She reported:

The whole trial was grotesque . . . It was hard to believe the levity in the courtroom, the joking and congeniality between the judge, the lawyers and the Latimers. The media people said they’d never seen such laughter in a murder trial. It was like everyone decided to forget tat a child had been killed.[15]

Judge Noble’s ignoble decision

Apparently “the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment” applied to Robert Latimer but not to his daughter. Judge Ted Noble granted an unprecedented constitutional exemption from the mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for at least ten years in favor of a two year sentence.

Judge Noble called Latimer a “devoted family man.” Really? A devoted family man would not murder his child, timing how long it took for her to die (one-thousand one, one-thousand two …), and then put the body in her bed for other family members to stumble upon. (Surprise!) Judge Noble spoke about Robert Latimer “the model citizen.” Model citizens do not willfully destroy evidence; they do not lie to police.

Noble said the Latimer case was isolated and not a signal for others to follow. Did he really think others would not follow Latimer’s lead? He only had to look at the number of mercy killings that took place after Latimer’s first trial and conviction in 1994. Ryan Wilkieson, a teenager with cerebral palsy, was murdered with carbon monoxide by his mother. Autistic Charles Blais was drowned by his mother in their Montreal home. A physician, Dr. Nancy Morrison, killed Halifax cancer patient Paul Mills. Canadian MS sufferer Austin Bastable was assisted in his suicide by Jack Kevorkian. Winnipeg senior Bert Doerksen helped his suicidal wife die by carbon monoxide poisoning. Nova Scotian Mary Jane Fogerty was convicted of assisting her diabetic friend Brenda Barnes commit suicide. (Fogarty received a suspended sentence and was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service.) Ten year old Katie Lynn Baker of British Columbia, who had Rett Syndrome, was starved to death by her mother. None resulted in any jail time.

Judge Noble spoke of the Latimer case as “compassionate homicide.” The media adopted the term and cheered his ruling as “courageous” and “breaking new legal ground.” Noble may as well have declared a new legal underclass in Canada: the handicapped and disabled. That was the implication, regardless of guarantees to the contrary in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Canada’s version of a Constitution).
The prosecution appealed the sentence to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeals and the mandatory sentence was put in place. Robert Latimer then appealed to the Supreme Court for the constitutional exemption to be reinstated.

Canada’s climate of support for “mercy killers”

Regardless of the media manipulating public support for Robert Latimer, Canada is still confronted with the ugly reality that a climate of support for mercy killers was established. The Latimer case played an important role in introducing to the public mindset the idea of “compassionate homicide” for the disabled.

Why were two juries who heard the full testimonies so sympathetic to Robert Latimer? The first refused to convict him of first degree murder, opting for a second-degree murder conviction. Based upon clear and irrefutable evidence the second jury was compelled to convict Latimer of second-degree murder but recommended a sentence of one year instead of the mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for at least ten years. Why were the police and courts so sympathetic to Robert Latimer? Why did he become a folk hero? Is the thought of living with a disability in one’s family so abhorrent to Canadians? Latimer claimed he chose to “commit suicide” for his daughter. Suicide by proxy?

Between the first and second trial, Canada’s governing Liberal Party adopted an official policy favoring assisted suicide. After the second trial, Canada’s Justice Minister, Anne McLellan, said she would consider changing Canada’s Criminal Code to permit lenient sentences for second-degree murder in “exceptional circumstances.”[16]

In April of 1998, Justice Minister McLellan wrote to me regarding my concerns about the Latimer case as well as assisted suicide and euthanasia. She said, in part,

"Questions ranging from quality of medical care available to seriously ill and dying people to the moral questions involving a person’s power to control his or her own life and even the value of life itself must be considered when debating this subject." [Emphasis added]

I was left to wonder: The value of which lives are up for consideration and who will do the considering? Does Canada’s Justice Minister envision a different standard of “medical care” for “seriously ill and dying people” than the rest of the population? Better or worse?

Supreme Court decisions by mob rule?

As the Canadian Supreme Court began to deliberate the Latimer appeal for a constitutional exemption from the mandatory life sentence for send-degree murder, the media contacted Robert Latimer at his farm for comment: “It’s obvious, isn’t it?” Latimer said, “The majority of people seem to understand.” He was relying on public support to sway the Supreme Court. In a written submission to the High Court, his legal team wrote, “the vast majority of Canadians are outraged” at the sentence imposed on an “anguished father.”

In January 2001, Canada’s Supreme Court upheld Latimer’s second-degree sentence and sent him to prison to serve his life sentence without chance of parole for at least ten years. Immediately, tens of thousands of petitions began circulating across Canada gathering signatures asking the federal government to reduce or commute Latimer’s sentence. Numerous Canadians offered to serve portions of his prison time for him.

Two months after Latimer was sent to prison, a woman in Montreal murdered her disabled daughter. The child’s name was Chelsea Craig; she was fourteen years old and had had a sunny disposition. Although her mother was charged with first-degree murder, rumbling of public support immediately began to rumble.

Robert Latimer only served seven years of his sentence then received day-parole last month. His case was championed by lawyer Jason Gratl. President of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. Gratl said, “I am just so happy this travesty of justice has been reversed, ….”[17] The Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Allan Borovoy thought that expecting Latimer to serve the minimum requirement of his sentence was a “national disgrace.”

It’s a scary time to be disabled (as I am) in Canada; the winds of public opinion blow cold. Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper conducted a public opinion about the early parole of Latimer. More than 80% of respondents agreed with his early release from the minimum requirement of ten years in prison before parole.

Unwelcome in my country
At the end of the day, a severely disabled person like me is faced with the disturbing reality that public opinion surveys consistently show that over seventy percent of Canadians agree with assisted suicide for chronically terminally ill and severely disabled, and sympathize with killers severely disabled people. It is hard for me, as a Canadian chronically ill and disabled with multiple sclerosis, to feel kinship with my fellow Canadian citizens knowing most people I meet on the street would support my suicide rather than prevent it.

I had no idea most Canadians hold people like me in such low regard.

Mark Pickup
[1] Originally published under the title “The Murder of Tracy Latimer” in The Human Life Review (New York), 2001.[2] Tracy’s mother, Laura, said they were of the view that the upcoming was not the “end of the road.” Transcript of Court Proceedings: Between Her Majesty the Queen and Robert L. Latimer, Q.J.B., vol. III, lines 4-5, p.651.[3] Proceedings, vol.II, lines 8-16, p.590. Laura Latimer testified to an oily smell in the hallway and Tracy’s room, which disappeared when the body is removed.[4] Theresa Huyghebaert, North Battleford (SK) Group home manager testified in court that Tracy had short petit mall seizures. Laura Latimer also gave testimony that Tracy’s seizures were reduced and controlled with drugs.[5] References at the trial of Tracy being a happy child are too numerous to mention in this article.[6] Read at the trial.[7] Proceedings.[8] Proceedings.[9] Proceeding testimony of psychiatrist Dr. Robin Menzies revealed at the time of Tracy’s death she was on ordinary Tylenol.[10] “Tolerance Shown for Mercy Killings,” the Toronto Globe and Mail, 11 January 1999. Polls consistently revealed most Canadians thought Robert Latimer’s sentence was too harsh.[11] Ruth Enns, A Voice Unheard: The Latimer Case and People With Disabilities (Halifax, Nova Scotia: Fernwood Publishing, 1999) p. 55.[12] “Who is the real Robert Latimer? The judge who sentenced him for rape now calls him salt of the earth.” Alberta Report, 04 September 1995, p.29.[13] Ibid.[14] “‘Error’ gives farmer shot at new trial: Latimer jurors secretly interviewed.” The Edmonton Journal, 26 October, 1995, A3. The prosecution lawyer Randy Kirkham was charged with attempting to obstruct justice for allegedly have police interview prospective jurors about their views on issues such as religion, abortion and mercy killing. Kirkham was acquitted of the charge in June of 1998.[15] ProLife News Canada, February 1998, p.9. Charlotte Cooper’s seventeen year old daughter with cerebral palsy had the same series of operations.[16] “Changes to Criminal Code considered: Justice Minister encourages debate on euthanasia.” The Edmonton Journal, 07 November, 1997, A3.[17] Ian Mulgrew, “Robert Latimer granted day parole,” 27 February 2008, The National Post online, http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=338933 , Accessed from the internet 12 March 2008.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

International Day of the Unborn Child, March 25 2008

March 25th, 2008 is the International Day of the Unborn Child. It is a day when all people of good will should rededicate themselves to advocate that societies around the world include every unborn child within their understanding of the human community. It is a day for people of faith to pray for the eradication of abortion from the face of the planet.

The Right to Life:
The most fundamental human right

Civilized societies give protection and care to all human life from conception to natural death. Universal human rights include every human life. The first and highest human right is the right to life. It is the first and highest human right because it is foundational to all other human rights. Without the Right to Life guaranteed, all other rights become arbitrary and uncertain.

The United Nations 1959 Declarations on Human Rights said,

"The child by reason of its physical and mental immaturity needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth."

But that was then -- this is now. The idea of protecting life before birth has become unfashionable in the years since that Declaration fifty years ago. Humanity has regressed not progressed regarding the most fundamental of human rights. Today, an estimated 40-million abortions occur in the world each year!

Abortion is not a right, it is a holocaust of unequalled proportions.

True champions of universal human rights must fight for recognition of the sanctity, dignity, equality of all human life, not just some.

About face

Let us be reminded that Christ died for all sinners. There is no sin He will not forgive. If you have advocated abortion, stop: Begin to advocate for universal human rights and life affirming alternatives to abortion for women in crisis pregnancies and their babies. If you have had an abortion, understand that God will forgive that too. I know what I am talking about. Thirty-seven years ago, I advocated and pressured my girlfriend to abort our child. She did.

Through repentance and confession we were both reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ.

If you know somebody who is in a crisis pregnancy and considering abortion, HumanLifeMatters can help. There are many Christian crisis pregnancy centers situated across Canada and the United States. They have volunteers who are ready, willing, able and wanting to help their women in crisis pregnancies to make life affirming decisions for themselves and their babies. If you know somebody who needs to locate a pregnancy counselling centre, send an email note to HumanLifeMatters@shaw.ca and HLM will put you in contact with a center in your area.

Make this International Day of the Unborn Child mark a turning point or time of recommitment to the sanctity, dignity and equality of all human life.

Mark Pickup

Friday, March 14, 2008

China, the Olympics and Human Rights

David Kilgour (right) has been my friend for nearly 30 years. He is truly one of Canada's great champions of universal human rights from conception to natural death. During his 25 plus years as a Canadian MP, David worked tirelessly to assist thousands of refugees from around the world come and settle in Canada and build a life for themselves and their families. Since retiring from politics David Kilgour has continued to fight for human rights throughout the world. I am proud to say he is my friend. Below are speaking notes David sent to me from an address he recently delivered in the UK. Mark Pickup
(Images added by me.)

Notes for Address by Hon. David Kilgour, J.D.
Cambridge Union Society
Cambridge, United Kingdom
11 March 2008

Virtually all independent observers agree that repression across China is increasing as the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics approach. National leaders planning to attend the games, governments, media and corporate event sponsors should therefore indicate to their respective publics what they are doing to try to reverse this trend. Otherwise, they risk being tainted badly by what a Human Rights Watch spokesperson has suggested could become a "human rights debacle".

Hosting an Olympiad while escalating the persecution of communities and individuals among your own population is irreconcilable with the modern Olympic Charter. It's hard to say at times which side appears to grasp this point less-- the government of China or the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The first hopes that spending vast amounts on facilities--and forcibly removing thousands of Beijing families from their homes without adequate compensation to do so --will somehow improve its international reputation.

China's party-state is counting on overseas visitors this August--and more importantly on those watching television images at home—noticing Beijing's new dragon-shaped airport, its bird's nest-looking national stadium and the athletic events rather the full implications for its nationals of maintaining absolute political control.The same is true of its championing of autocracy across the world.
Dr. Sev Ozdowski, the former Australian Human Rights Commissioner who was raised in Poland, recently noted that the Third Reich used the 1936 Berlin Olympics for similar purposes. He adds that in 1936 Hitler's dictatorship was already well established, including political executions without trial and the racist Nuremberg Laws of September 1935, which removed all civil liberties from German Jews. Despite many such omens of what was yet to come, Ozdowski notes correctly, "the Western democracies decided to overlook these developments in the name of unity of Olympic spirit."

In 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available, there were more than twice as many arrests in China as the previous year for the 'offence of endangering state security'. The number jumped to 604 arrests in 2006 from 296 in 2005.
Gao Zhisheng

Among those arrested was Gao Zhisheng, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year. Gao is a leader who shares many qualities with Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi and is increasingly admired both in and beyond China. He might well emerge as one of China's elected leaders when the country opts for the rule of law and democracy. Gao knows painfully well the Chinese metaphor, "the peg that stands out is pounded down." and that democracy rights are essential to human dignity.
Gao began life in a poverty-stricken family. In the early years, he earned his living as street vendor, but later managed to pass the bar exams without attending law school. He donated a third of his time to victims of human rights violations. In 2001, he was named one of China's top ten lawyers, following a competition by the ministry of Justice. He later represented miners, evicted tenants and other victimized persons, but when he attempted to defend members of the Falun Gong spiritual community the party-state unleashed its full wrath upon him and his family.
This included removing his permit to practice, an attempt on his life, having police attack his wife (Nov 2006) and 13-year-old daughter (Dec 2006), and attempting to deny the family any income. In December, 2006 he was sentenced to three years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power", although international pressure appears to have caused a suspension of the sentence for five years. Gao predictably did speak out again and his whereabouts is now unknown to the great concern of many.

Gao himself has managed to find a basis for hope. Speaking to fellow citizens who came to Beijing in Dec, 2005 to petition the government, he said: "It is our misfortune to live in the China of this historical period. No-one on this earth has ever had to experience or witness the suffering that has befallen us. Yet it is also our fortune to live in the China of this historical period. For we will experience and witness how the greatest people on earth banished this suffering once and for all."

Stubborn Facts
Like Gao, the Chinese are a strong and resilient people, too many of whom who are currently exploited by the Party bosses of their country. Their friends outside the country should speak up for them--and perhaps especially for women and girls, who are often even more mistreated than men and boys. Why, for example, is the government spending tens of billions of yuan on Olympic facilities instead of using much of it for badly needed social programs, education and housing for the poor? It is simply nonsense for the president of the IOC to imply that the Olympics have nothing to do with politics; for the party-state in China, it has everything to do with politics and its image in the world.

Many outside China think they know the country, having read about it, visited flourishing cities and perhaps having Chinese friends, but much of importance is often over-looked. It was, for example, only when David Matas and I began to search below the surface that I began to realize that things were not so simple, including the way a large spiritual community, the Falun Gong, continues to be treated in the 21st century, not as human beings, but essentially as objects for sale as body parts.

The Party seeks to equate itself with China as a country, to convince naive persons within and outside that it is China, and that without the Party there would be no China. This is despite the inconvenient reality that its ideological foundation is now widely-discredited European Marxism. A farmer in China put it best, "Karl Marx does not sound like a Chinese name." This is also the underpinning of the Party strategy to maintain absolute power.

On a more hopeful note, Reuters News reported a few weeks ago that the Party's senior think tank, the Central Party School, has warned that it must reduce its current absolute power through democratic reforms. The 366-page report, "Storming the Fortress" notes: "Citizens' steadily rising democratic consciousness and the grave corruption among Party and government officials make it increasingly urgent to press ahead with demands for political system reform." It also calls for restricting Party powers and expanding the rights of citizens, reporters and religious believers. Is hope enough?

Is Xi Jinping, the Shanghai party boss, the new president of the Central Party School and the very recently-designated successor to Hu Jintao as party secretary in 2012, listening? What of his party colleague, Li Keqiang, Hu's protoge, who was just annointed by the same circle of Party bosses to replace Wen Jiabao as prime minister in 2013?

"Bloody Harvest Games"

David Matas, and I concluded following our independent investigation last year that since 2001 the party-state in China and its agencies have killed thousands of Falun Gong practitioners, without any form of prior trial, and then sold their vital organs for large sums of money, often to 'organ tourists' from wealthy countries (Our report is available in nineteen languages at http://www.organharvestinvestigation.net/ ).

Neither of us are Falun Gong practitioners, but my experience with Falun Gong in the numerous national capitals Matas and I have visited, seeking to bring organ pillaging to a halt by helping to raise public awareness, has been overwhelmingly positive. Falun Gong practitioners attempt to live their core principles of "truth, compassion and tolerance", which are shared by virtually all of the world's spiritual communities.

Matas and I have spoken in several countries to a number of Falun Gong practitioners sent to forced labour camps since 1999, who managed later to leave both the camps and China itself. They told us of working in appalling conditions for up to sixteen hours daily with no pay and little food and many sleeping in the same room, making export products, ranging from garments to chopsticks to Christmas decorations for multinational companies. This clearly constitutes both corporate irresponsibility and flagrant violations of WTO rules.

The labour camps, operating across China since the 1950s, are remarkably similar to one's in Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany. They operate outside the legal system and allow the Party to send anyone to them for up to four years with neither hearing nor appeal by simply getting compliant police to sign an order of committal.

Consider a little of what Jennifer Zeng, now of Australia, said about her own experience in one of the camps, located not far from the shiny new national stadium: "I was sent to the Female Forced Labour Camp in Beijing in 2001 for practising Falun Gong. The police made it clear that the only purpose to be sent there was to be 'reformed', which meant to force us to give up our beliefs. In order to achieve this, the police stopped at nothing. We were not allowed to sleep for as long as 15 days and 15 nights, sometimes even one month. We were shocked with electric batons, beaten up, sexually abused, forced to work under appalling conditions for 16 or even 20 hours a day. We were put under severe and endless mental pressure to betray our own beliefs …"
Echoes of Rwanda

The propaganda phase, begun in mid-1999 against a then estimated 70-100 million Falun Gong practitioners across China, demonized, vilified and dehumanized them in Party-controlled media. Many Chinese were thus persuaded to think of the community as even somehow less than human. It recalls a similar media campaign unleashed by a regime in Rwanda against its minority Tutsi community prior to the genocide there between April and June, 1994.

There has been no independently reported instance of a Falun Gong practitioner using force to respond to police attacks since July, 1999. The former UN Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Novak, concluded following his own visit to China more than a year ago that two thirds of the persons being tortured across the country were Falun Gong practitioners.

Why is it that in only one of the eighty or so countries where Falun Gong practitioners now live are they persecuted mercilessly? Their growing popularity among the Chinese people of all ages and walks of life during the 1990s was clearly one major reason, but another no doubt was that the values of those now in power in Beijing are at the opposite end of any ethical spectrum.

The Chinese Medical Association recently agreed with the World Medical Association that 'organ tourists' can no longer obtain transplants in China. Whether this is anything more than public relations, intended to benefit the Olympics, remains to be seen. Another concern is that organs seized from Falun Gong practitioners will now go to wealthy Chinese patients instead, with the hideous commerce thus continuing in the same volumes.

None of these deaths would be occurring if the Chinese people enjoyed the rule of law and their government believed in the intrinsic importance of each one of them. Human lives across China appear to have no more value to the Party than does the natural environment, work safety, health care or the well-being of Buddhist monks in Tibet and Burma. In my judgement, it is the toxic combination of totalitarian governance and 'anything is permitted' capitalism that allows this new form of evil in the world to persist.

"Genocide Olympics"
A number of the world's most brutal dictatorships have fallen under Beijing's sway during its scramble to acquire as much as possible of the earth's natural resources. I'll mention here only Sudan as a representative case, but I'd ask you to reflect on how any government doing the terrible things in Tibet, Burma, East Turkistan/Xinjian, Uzebekistan, Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the world which China's party-state is doing or has done could be allowed by the IOC to host an Olympiad?

In Sudan's Darfur province, since April, 2003 an estimated 400,000- 450,000 African civilians have been murdered by bombs, bullets or burning directed by the Bashir military government in Khartoum, or died of related causes, such as starvation and disease.

The government of China continues to assist Sudan's Bashir in numerous ways, including, financing and supplying arms in exchange for taking most of Sudan's oil production at cut prices. Since the slaughter began in 2003, China's party-state has also used the threat of its veto in the UN Security Council to block continuously any effective UN action against Sudan.

Protected by China's government, Bashir is confident that he can complete his genocidal work in Darfur. He recently appointed Musa Hilal, the one-time leader of the murderous militia, the Janjaweed, to a position in his government. Hilal has been quoted expressing gratitude for "the necessary weapons and ammunition to exterminate the African tribes in Darfur."

Last month, the Sudanese military ambushed a well-marked U.N. peacekeeping convoy in Darfur, later claiming it was a mistake. Virtually every independent observer says it was a deliberate attack. There is growing concern that the Sudan-China alliance will cause the UN peacekeeping force in Sudan to be as ineffective as it was in Rwanda and Bosnia.
The ongoing role of China party-state across Sudan and elsewhere is clearly not the conduct of a responsible member of the international community. Nor is it a peaceful rise for China.

Growing Shadows over Olympics

The world looks forward to Olympiads, including London's in 2012, because they feature the best athletic talent from our entire family of nations. The Games this year face increasing criticism because the host national government remains one of the world's most gross and systematic violators of human dignity.

China was awarded the Games by the IOC only after it pledged to respect the Olympic Charter and to improve its human rights record. Instead the rest of us are now adjusting to its worsening inhuman practices. Some democratic governments, which should have more historical awareness and principles, are even trying to silence their athletes.

Why, for example, do Falun Gong practitioners face continuing merciless persecution after eight long years? What principle of the modern Olympic Games, especially after the experience in Hitler's Berlin in 1936, allows a host government to bar any spiritual community's members from competing in, or even watching, events in Beijing? What about Tibetans, Buddhists, Christians, Uighurs, human rights advocates, independent journalists, and other and democracy activists?

The Olympic Games and human rights movements worldwide share the same goals: unity, dignity and equality among the entire human family. When this is violated systematically by the host government of an Olympiad, the Olympic movement as a whole loses credibility. The IOC has to date provided no substantive response on this issue.

The IOC should demand from the organizers of the 2008 Games that they conform to the Charter and refrain from discrimination against any group or individual during these Games. As consumers, we might all begin to ask serious questions to the corporate sponsors of the Games, including Manulife, Visa, Kodak, Samsung, Panasonic, Omega, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald's, General Electric, John Hancock and Coca-Cola. Silence from them implies acquiescence with what is going on across China.

... Is Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch not correct when she says that corporate sponsors, governments and National Olympic Committees should urge Beijing to improve human rights conditions in China? "Olympic corporate sponsors are putting their reputations at risk unless they work to convince the Chinese government to uphold the human rights pledges it made to bring the Games to Beijing," she said recently. "Human rights are under attack in China, and Olympic sponsors should use their considerable leverage to persuade Beijing to change policy."

The rest of us should too. We are asking the government of China to honour the promises made when it bid for the Games. If you agree, please press your own government and your national Olympic Committee to urge the government of China to fulfill it commitments.
Thank you.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

What gives life value?

Below is the text of an email to a utilitarian bioethicist.


From: MarkPickup@shaw.ca
To: Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and the Director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Dear Dr. Caplan: We have communicated before, primarily about the Schiavo case. [Caplan advocated Terri Schiavo's death. I advocated for her to live.] I want to share a photograph of my youngest grandson and me to illustrate a point: What ultimately gives life quality is not physical function. In my case I am incurably ill and disabled (triplegic) from multiple sclerosis. My life has quality because of love. Moments like this are amongst my happiest.

This was a critical point I want to help you not to overlook because you missed it with the Terri Schiavo case. Terri's estranged husband was clearly in a conflict of interest with Terri. Michael Schiavo was living with another woman and started a family with her. He had every reason to want his disabled wife out of the picture. She was clearly a burden to his new life.

We had no way of knowing what Terri wanted, she left no written directive, we only had hearsay testimony of her husband that she wanted to die.

Yet Terri Schiavo had every reason to live. She was dearly loved by her parents, her brother and sister (I know, they are personal friends of mine). They wanted to take Terri into their embrace and care for her. It was people like you, and other academics, her estranged husband as well as Florida's courts (George Greer in particular) who advocated her death, under the most flimsy assertions she would not want to live in her disabled condition. So what! I do not want to live in my disabled state of advanced MS either, ... but it doesn't mean I'm better off dead. As you can plainly see from the photograph, I am loved.

Perhaps if I was not loved or felt I was a burden on loved-ones, I would want to die. But the response of a civilized society should not be to assist my suicide, rather help me seek life with dignity instead of so-called "death with dignity." Dying with dignity is not achieved by offering poison to a person who has sunk beneath the waves of depression or circumstances. Dying with dignity is the end result of having lived with dignity. Even a stupid man like me knows that.

Love is the final arbiter of life's dignity and value, not physical or mental capacity. I want to help you not to overlook or miss this critically important point.

Mark Pickup
Beaumont, AB.,

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Bill Clinton's little outburst

While campaigning for his wife’s Democratic nomination, Bill Clinton, was confronted by pro-Life demonstrators. One protester held up a sign that said "Abortion is murder." Bill Clinton lost his cool: "I gave you the answer. We disagree with you." He continued,

"You wanna criminalize women and their doctors and we disagree. I reduced abortion. Tell the truth, tell the truth, if you were really pro-life, if you were really pro-life, you would want to put every doctor and every mother as an accessory to murder in prison. And you won't say you wanna do that because you know, that you wouldn't have a lick of political support. Now, the issue is who, the issue is, you can't name me anybody presently in politics that did more to introduce policies that reduce the number of real abortions instead of the hot air putting out to tear people up and make votes by dividing America. This is not your rally. I heard you. That's another thing you need is a president, somebody who will stick up for individual rights and not be pushed around, and she won't."

No, Mr. Clinton, you are wrong.

I have been involved with the pro-Life movement for a quarter of a century and have spoken from coast to coast in both Canada and the United States. I’ve met literally hundreds if not thousands of pro-Lifers.

I have never known any pro-Life advocate who thinks women should be jailed for having an abortion. Not one. The former President’s outburst of temper is patently absurd.
Abortionists in jail
I am “really pro-Life”. I don’t want to put “every” doctor in jail, just abortionists. As for women who have abortions, they are victims as much as their babies. Why would I want to see them in jail?

Mr. Clinton, please let me “tell the truth, tell the truth.” I have no interest in criminalizing women. As co-founder of a crisis pregnancy centre for women in crisis pregnancies, (of which there are hundreds across North America) my intent was to provide women complete, accurate, and current information about abortion and prenatal life. It was never my desire to see any woman put in the bloody hands of some low-life abortionist. It is abortionists who should be in jail, Mr. Clinton. Most doctors (and certainly those of a Hippocratic tradition) have very low opinions of abortionists.

In response to the sign "Abortion is murder" Clinton said "We disagree with you." Why would he disagree when decades ago biology established that human life begins at conception? Ideology and bigotry. He does not accept the humanity and personhood of the unborn child. To people of his liberal ilk, access to abortion is more important that the universal human right to life declared by the UN's Declaration of Universal Human Rights. (In 1998, his own administration celebrated the 50th anniversary of that lofty document.)

Selective human rights
Yet he agrees and champions the freedom to choose the death of one's own offspring before birth, or in the birth canal by partial birth abortion. He considers it a woman's right. By his behavior we know he does not really believe in universal human rights at all. Bill Clinton believes in selective human rights.

Bill Clinton spoke about “real abortions.” All abortion is real. It is not pro-Life advocates who “tear people up.” It is the abortionist who literally tears people up; the abortionist knowingly tears up the littlest and youngest members of humanity. With grisly precision of suction aspiration or dilation and Curettage (D&C), the abortionist tears up preborn children.

One day, perhaps years from her abortion, the mother will learn about the marvel prenatal life; the reality of her earlier abortion will tear her up and break her heart. It may even break the heart of the father of the aborted child. I know, I am one.
Lies and abandonment

The woman who chooses abortion is often as much a victim as her child. She may have made a terrible decision out of desperation, or abandonment, ignorance or listening to the lie that her baby is just a blob of tissue.
Where will the Clintons and their sophistry be when the reality of abortion hits home for the post-abortive woman? They will be far away probably denying that post abortion trauma even exists. It will be pro-Life people who will comfort the post-abortive woman in her sorrow, helping her pick up the pieces and rebuild and reconcile with God and herself.
Mark Pickup