Monday, July 23, 2018

Disability rights leader: Latimer stirs up nightmarish wake up call.

Dr Heidi Janz
Heidi Janz (PhD) is an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta’s John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre and the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine and chairs the Council of Canadians with Disabilities Ending-of-Life Ethics Committee. Dr Janz wrote the following opinion article that was published in the Edmonton Journal on July 20, 2018.
Last week, news outlets reported that Robert Latimer has submitted a letter to the federal minister of justice seeking a pardon or a new trial following his conviction for the murder of his daughter Tracy in 1993. When I heard these reports, I, like many Canadians with disabilities, felt a sickening sense of deja vu. 
For many Canadians with disabilities, including me, the murder of Tracy Latimer and the overwhelming media and public support for her father was a nightmarish wake-up call, alerting us to the fact that many, if not most, of our fellow Canadians considered a life with disabilities as being a life not worth living. 
During Latimer’s appeal trial, I vividly remember tuning into a CBC news magazine show on the topic and being overwhelmed with horror. For the first time, I became fully aware that, as a person with severe disabilities, I, too, would be viewed by many of my fellow Canadians as better off dead than disabled. 
Latimer’s request for a pardon means that my nightmare, and the nightmare of thousands of Canadians with disabilities, is beginning all over again. In petitioning to be pardoned, he is declaring: “I was right to kill my daughter; the law was wrong. Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) is now legal in Canada. Therefore, I should no longer continue to have to carry the stigma of being branded a convicted murderer just because MAID wasn’t a legal option when Tracy was alive. And—did I mention?—I WAS RIGHT!” 
What Latimer and his lawyers appear to be overlooking is that Medical Aid in Dying still isn’t legal for minors in Canada. Or perhaps it’s not so much that they’re ignoring that fact as it is that they’re hoping to promote a reshaping of the law that will vindicate Robert Latimer. 
As to the issue of stigma, it seems to me that the stigmatization we should be worrying about isn’t Robert Latimer’s, but Tracy’s, and along with her that of all Canadians with disabilities. 
Tracy Latimer
From the time Latimer was first arrested for killing Tracy, he portrayed his daughter as little more than a suffering bundle of flesh. And the mainstream media was quick to promote this image of Tracy. As Shafer Parker, a former journalist who covered Latimer’s murder trials, says, “Instead of the pain-wracked, non-communicative sufferer described by Latimer, the record reveals that right up until her last weekend, Tracy continued to ride the bus to the developmental centre in Wilkie five days a week, 45 minutes each way. And in the caregiver’s communication book that was permanently attached to Tracy’s wheelchair Mrs. Latimer included frequent descriptions of her as a ‘happy girl’ who, for example, was ‘all smiles’ when her cousins came for a visit. And when her younger sister Lindsay invited friends for a sleepover, she was fully involved in their hijinks. ‘Tracy was the worst girl,’ her mother wrote, ‘up at 10 to seven, laughing and vocalizing. She was really good
the rest of the day.’ ” 
And yet, two-and-a-half decades after Tracy Latimer was murdered by her father, some mainstream media reports about his petition for a pardon still erroneously described Tracy as a “bedridden quadriplegic.” 
Finally, like many other disability-rights advocates, I am sickened and alarmed by Robert Latimer’s petition for pardon because, contrary to the claim of Latimer’s lawyer that “[g]ranting a pardon to Mr. Latimer does not detract from any value or principle,” pardoning Tracy’s killer would, in fact, signal an abandonment of the government’s commitment to equality, justice, and ending discrimination against disabled Canadians. 
Being a disabled Canadian could be about to get a whole lot scarier again thanks to Robert Latimer.
Taylor Hyatt - Tracy Latimer: My sister in spirit

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is incomprehensible that a father who planned and executed his own daughter's death would think that somehow he should be pardoned now that we have mistakenly, in my opinion, accepted M.A.I.D.in Canada. If young Tracy were not disabled, Robert Latimer would have been charged with first degree murder and found guilty without a shadow of doubt. How dare he, and his lawyers, conjure up some mistaken entitlement to request a second trial or to be pardoned! My nightmare has been that this very request, and others similar, would follow should Bill C14 be passed, and also that proposals for M.A.I.D.to be applicable to minors with 'irremediable' diseases. No wonder that our Canadians with disabilities feel abandoned again and are having sleepless nights and nightmares. This is the very slippery slope which was predicted!. Look out all disenfranchised groups, lest you be judged to have a less meaningful and significant life. Will the mentally ill, the elderly, the homeless and those in nursing care and long term care facilities be deemed as such? I do not fear becoming old, but should I acquire dementia I would require a long term or nursing care because I do not have family. My nightmare is that another Elizabeth Wettlaufer might be employed at the care facility or the doctors and nurses would decide that there was not enough room in the facility and so snuff away my life in the silence of the night. Who would there be to question it? Thank you Dr. Janz for the wake up call.

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