Community response to CBC Interview with Robert Latimer
Once again, we are
made to suffer Robert Latimer's claims of righteousness in murdering
his vulnerable 12 year old daughter. He has had his day in court. The
Saskatchewan Court of Appeal upheld his life sentence without parole
for 10 years. Finally almost 8 years after the crime, he lost his last
appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada and began to serve his sentence.
Since he was first arrested he has had ample and repeated access to
the courts and, through a sympathetic media, to the court of public
opinion. How often do Canadians with disabilities have to be subjected
to the fact that some part of the public assert and believe our lives
are not worth living!
The CBC television
and other media outlets have given this unrepentant murderer a prime
time platform from which to persuade the public to excuse his crime.
I believe those of us that are most put at risk by the broadcast of
Robert Latimer's dangerous rationalizations should have similar opportunities
to share our perspective with the public.
The 2001 Supreme
Court of Canada decision in R. v. Latimer has much to commend it. The
public would benefit from knowing the balanced approach of the Court
in weighing aggravating circumstances against any mitigating circumstances
in the case. The following from the decision illustrates this approach:
On the one hand,
we must give due consideration to Mr. Latimer's initial attempts to
conceal his actions, his lack of remorse, his position of trust, the
significant degree of planning and premeditation, and Tracy's extreme
vulnerability. On the other hand, we are mindful of Mr. Latimer's
good character and standing in the community, his tortured anxiety
about Tracy's well-being, and his laudable perseverance as a caring
and involved parent. Considered together we cannot find that the personal
characteristics and particular circumstances of this case displace
the serious gravity of this offence. (R. v. Latimer paragraph 85)
the decision recognizes the denunciatory value in sentencing:
unlawful conduct is one of the objectives of sentencing recognized
in s. 718 of the Criminal Code. As noted by the Court in R. v. M.
(C.A.),  1 S.C.R. 500, at para. 81:
of denunciation mandates that a sentence should communicate society's
condemnation of that particular offender's conduct. In short, a sentence
with a denunciatory element represents a symbolic, collective statement
that the offender's conduct should be punished for encroaching on
our society's basic code of values as enshrined within our substantive
criminal law. [Emphasis in original.]
becomes much more important in the consideration of sentencing in
cases where there is a "high degree of planning and premeditation,
and where the offence and its consequences are highly publicized,
[so that] like-minded individuals may well be deterred by severe sentences":
R. v. Mulvahill and Snelgrove (1993), 21 B.C.A.C. 296, at p. 300.
This is particularly so where the victim is a vulnerable person with
respect to age, disability, or other similar factors. (R. v. Latimer
at paragraph 86)
only chance to avoid serving the remaining 5 years of his life sentence
before being eligible for parole is a rare use of the "royal prerogative"
to grant a federal pardon. This can be done by the Governor in Council
or the Governor General. There are probably some Members of Parliament
in each party that will support such an idea. We are confident that
wiser heads and hearts in Prime Minister Harper's new government will
To overturn the
wisdom and proper role of our courts to reflect Robert Latimer's twisted
views would be completely bizarre and wrong. Afterall, through his deeds
and words, he asserts that some persons with disabilities are so difficult
a burden for the rest of us to endure that they should be deprived of
their lives without any legal consequence. Why should we nullify the
operation of our laws to sanction the outrageous justifications of Robert
Latimer's deluded criminal action?
We do not believe our Canadian justice system will be stood on its head
to permit the murder of children by their parents.
Human Rights Committee Member