C H N     


January 1998
HEADLINE; Latimer appeal welcomed by disabled

Mike Mastromatteo

Cheryl Eckstein, executive director of the Compassionate Healthcare Network said the appeal will bring groups representing the disabled together with one voice. We are really one-minded about this. Tracy Latimer had a right to life and justice and she was not served".  more...

Latimer appeal welcomed by disabled

By Mike Mastromatteo
The Interim

Canada's pro-life, pro-family community applauds a decision by the Saskatchewan government to appeal the lenient sentence given Robert Latimer in the killing of his 12-year-old disabled daughter Tracy.

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal announced the decision to challenge the sentence December 17. The action comes as the country's disabled community recoils from the news of Mr. Justice T.G. Noble's December 1 ruling to exempt Latimer from a mandatory 10-year minimum sentence. 
Noble granted a rare constitutional exemption from the mandatory penalty and sentenced Latimer to two years less a day, the last half of which is to be served on Latimer's Wilkie-area farm.

Noble justified the decision by suggesting that the 10-year sentence would be "cruel and unusual punishment" for a man carrying out what he described as "compassionate homicide."

Proper punishment

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, expressed hope that the appeal will lead to
Latimer's punishment fitting his crime.  "Allowed to stand, Justice Noble's ruling would enshrine this ‘compassionate homicide' craziness in law," Hughes said. He added that the lenient sentence given Latimer tells disabled Canadians that they don't have the same legal protection as other citizens.

"A lot of people haven't forgotten that Tracy was the victim here, and that the law is supposed to protect the innocent, not excuse the guilty," Hughes said.

In a letter to the Saskatchewan Attorney General John Nilson, June Scandiffio of the Toronto Right to Life Association, said the original sentence was practically indefensible.   "If it is allowed to stand unchallenged ... Justice Noble's sentencing decision tells us that certain forms of murder - such as that of the disabled - are less heinous than others," Scandiffio said. "His drastic sentence reduction has effectively lowered the threshold of criminal liability in terms of murdering a handicapped person."

Canada's disabled rights community, pro-life organizations and church groups were equally horrified by the Latimer sentence. Some described the action as a travesty of justice which has left the country further along the "slippery slope" of declining respect for life and disposable humanity.

These groups fear the sentence has set a dangerous precedent in the justice system's attitude toward the
murder of disabled persons. Unlike assisted suicide cases, Tracy Latimer could give no indication of a
desire to die. In fact, despite physical pain and the prospect of numerous operations to deal with her
cerebral palsy, there were indications Tracy was coping with her disability.

The disabled community is also concerned by Latimer's appeal to compassion as a justification for murder. Latimer's defence attorney Mark Brayford said repeatedly that his client acted out of compassion when he killed his daughter.

He also said Latimer was motived only by a desire to put an end to years of physical pain for Tracy.
Latimer admitted to police that in October, 1993, he placed his Tracy in the cab of the family pickup truck, and attached a hose from the exhaust pipe to the truck interior. Tracy died of carbon monoxide poisoning within minutes.

Second trial

This was the second murder trial for Latimer. His first conviction for second-degree murder in 1994 was declared invalid when it was discovered the Crown prosecutor had questioned jurors as to their views on mercy killing and abortion. The original prosecutor is awaiting trial on obstruction of justice charges.

Cheryl Eckstein, executive director of the-based Compassionate Healthcare Network (CHN) in Surrey, British Columbia, said the appeal is welcome news to the disabled. She called the original sentence "a derailment of justice," adding that killing the disabled for compassionate reasons is a travesty. 

Eckstein said the appeal will bring groups representing the disabled together with one voice. "We are really one-minded about this," she said. "Tracy Latimer had a right to life and justice and she was not served."


Not Dead Yet protests euthanasia conference at Harvard

"The Catholic Church does not speak for us. The hospice folks do not speak for us. The anti-euthanasia advocates do not speak for us." 

A small contingent of Not Dead Yet, frustrated that no one from "the non-medical, non-religious opposition" against what they call "physician induced death" had been invited to participate in the Harvard International Conference on Euthanasia, End-of-life Care and Decision Making, protested at the two-day conference in early November, which was attended by several hundred people from the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands.

Although there were some pro-disability panelists -- disability scholar Adrienne Asch and the Compassionate Healthcare Network's Cheryl Eckstein -- some NDY activists insist that "only we can adequately represent our unique analysis of this issue."

"The issue for us can't stop at polite discussion of opposing views," said Not Dead Yet. "For over a decade, we've tried that style -- and we'll keep trying -- but that's not enough. It's time to take the issue to the streets -- not because we seek a chance to speak at a conference, not even because we want an equal voice in the ongoing debate, which we have been long denied -- but to save lives." 

Harvard was a particularly appropriate target, some felt, because Harvard had published "the so-called 'Model Act' that specifically expands PID to non-terminal people with disabilities."

Not Dead Yet's protest was mentioned in the Harvard student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, though there was no reporting of the specific issues addressed by the activist group.


Archive file found Ap.19.07

see also: DYING FOR RELIEF by Cheryl Eckstein


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