By Rebecca Richmond, Executive Director
The headline of the CBC article jumped out at me this morning, bringing with it many memories and a good deal of anger. I was only 6 when Robert Latimer killed his daughter Tracy, who was 12 years old at the time. I recall my mother’s fury and the letter-writing campaign she helped organize to inform politicians of the significance of this issue. When I was a bit older and Latimer was appealing his sentence at the Supreme Court, I joined her efforts. The leniency shown towards Latimer angered me then, and angers me now. Yet what concerns me even more is the absence of condemnation of his actions on the part of the general public.
Consider the reaction to the murder of Karissa Boudreau, strangled to death by her own mother Penny. Public outrage was enormous and the judge who ruled on the case told Penny, “You can never call yourself mother.”
Yet, if you read the comments posted on today’s article with news of Latimer’s full parole, you will see an entirely different reaction: Latimer is welcomed back, called a hero, and even suggested as a Member of Parliament because of his ‘integrity’. It seems to me that the only thing more horrific than a father killing his daughter and calling it “love” is having the general public sympathize and support that father.
Growing up, I knew a young man with cerebral palsy. The doctors said he would never walk or communicate. Well, he proved those doctors wrong. Life was difficult for his family and for him, yet his value was no less. And as we grew up with him at school, we were taught that love meant sacrificing a bit of ourselves. We took turns spending lunch hours with him. We started learning sign language to better communicate with him. Eventually the rest of the class moved ahead in grades, we moved into a different wing of the school and eventually to a different school. But I don’t think we’ll ever forget our time with him, the wide smiles he gave us and the laughter that we shared. He enriched our lives and made us better people.
I don’t doubt that life was difficult for Tracy and difficult for her parents, who struggled to see her suffer. But how do we measure and quantify suffering? Tracy was described as a generally cheerful girl who loved music and visits to the circus. I’ve known people – with no physical pain – whose suffering was so deep they could not even smile. Yet their right to life was never questioned. So why is it that shooting a severely depressed teenage daughter, for example, would outrage the public while gassing Tracy, a cheerful 12 year old with cerebral palsy, is considered compassionate?
Tracy did not have the same capabilities as many of us. She lived her life differently and was quite vulnerable, vulnerability her father took advantage of. Her dependence and her simple mental state do not give us, however, any special right to determine her life’s value and whether or not we will care for her or kill her.
The reality is that love involves sacrifice and it means suffering alongside those we love. And no matter how we spin the story, it never means killing.
For more background, see the Lifesitenews article here.