The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Ontario (EPCO) has launched a petition to counter a pro-Robert Latimer petition being distributed by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

The CCLA petition seeks executive clemency for Latimer from his 10-year sentence for the second-degree murder of his daughter Tracy, and that minimum sentences be abolished to allow judges greater discretion, presumably to allow reduced sentences for so-called mercy-killings. It is claimed the petition has 300,000 signatures already.

The EPCO petition wants the law – and the Latimer sentence – upheld so that all vulnerable persons (the disabled, elderly or anyone dependent upon others for care) are given equal protection under the law.

The petition, entitled Protecting People with Disabilities – The Supreme Court of Canada Latimer Decision, spells out the facts of the case: Latimer was convicted by a Saskatchewan court; that decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada; there is a minimum 10-year-sentence for second-degree murder; and “a lesser sentence is not applicable for killing a disabled child like Tracy Latimer.” It goes on to state that vulnerable Canadians “are recognized under Section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as being equally protected under the law.” Thus, a lenient sentence or executive clemency for Latimer “implies to all Canadians that killing a vulnerable person is a lesser crime than killing an able-bodied person.” It calls upon Parliament to uphold the Supreme Court’s decision.

EPCO executive director Alex Schadenberg told The Interim the petition is necessary so Parliament and the public “will be sent a signal that not all Canadians support a reduced [sentence] or no sentence for Latimer.”

Schadenberg was concerned that too few people were taking part in a previously announced letter-writing campaign. “We don’t want to be seen as marginal. If we want to counter the other side, we have to get our message to Parliament.”

Still, EPCO is also requesting pro-lifers to send letters to the Minister of Justice, Anne McLellan, Members of Parliament and the National Parole Board. Schadenberg said it is important that people concerned about Latimer receiving a reduced sentence take part in both the petition and letter-writing campaign if possible. “We need to get this message to our elected officials and the parole board that Tracy’s disability must not be a consideration in Robert Latimer’s punishment.”

The CCLA claims that granting clemency “would not mean – and should not cause – the legalization of what [Latimer] did.” Schadenberg said that is merely a semantic game. “Granting Robert Latimer clemency,” he said, “will say to society that killing people with disabilities is a lesser crime than killing an able-bodied person.” Any deterrent effect the law may have in preventing the murder of vulnerable persons, the importance of which was recognized by the Supreme Court in the Latimer decision, would be weakened if the sentence was reduced.

EPCO’s petition is being distributed by several disability and palliative care groups, a Campaign Life Coalition mailing, the organization’s own mailings, and various other networks. It is also available on their website, as well as Schadenberg said petitions should be returned to EPCO so a full accounting of numbers can be made, and that they be presented to allow the maximum effectiveness.

In related news, media reports say close to 100 Canadians are offering to each serve a month of Latimer’s sentence and that organizers are hoping to get 120 such people to serve one month each of Latimer’s 10-year sentence. This is in spite of the fact that such a plan is legally impossible.

In his March 26 CHP Communique, Christian Heritage Party leader Ron Gray said such “soft-hearted” volunteers “are confused” because they think Latimer acted out of “kindness.” He said “The justice system has already made a huge and dangerous concession when it reduced the charge from first-degree to second-degree murder, although the killing was unquestionably premeditated. Any further concessions to misguided ideas of ‘mercy’ will gravely weaken the boundary that protects the handicapped from such errant ‘kindness.'”

Gray said pro-lifers must “work hard to arrest the momentum of this euthanasia juggernaut.”

Letters to your MP and Justice Minister Anne McLellan can be sent postage-free to House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6. Letters to the National Parole Board should be sent with postage to Sir Wilfrid Laurier Building, 410 Laurier Ave. W., 7th Floor, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0R1.