Groups stage rally to voice anger and fear over appeal of Saskatchewan man who killed his daughter

On February 22, The Friends of Tracy Latimer called a press conference to tell the country that they were not happy with the ground-swell of sympathy that many Canadians were showing to Robert Latimer who last October ended the life of Tracy, his 12-year-old disabled daughter.

A jury found Latimer guilty of second-degree murder and handed out a mandatory life sentence without a chance of parole for 10 years.  Latimer has now appealed his sentence and the appeal hearings have begun.

Listening to the speakers at this press conference, one could be excused for confusing this with a pro-life gathering.

The phrases “protect all life”, “who can judge the quality of life”, and “our culture has lost its faith in life” were often repeated.  Yet, despite the startling similarity of the language, none of the speakers represented any of Canada’s pro-life organizations.

The press conference was followed by a demonstration at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square and coincided with the memorial services held in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Regina, Montreal, Halifax and St. John’s.

Most of the disabled speakers appealed to Canadians not to get caught up in sympathetic feelings for Mr. Latimer.

“We keep hearing about mercy,” said Pauline Lynch, representing the disabled living group People First Ontario.  “But how can putting your own daughter in the front seat of your pick-up, hooking a tube from the exhaust into the cab, shutting the garage door and letting her die have anything to do with mercy?”

“Whose misery was taken care of in this tragedy?” she asked.

Judith Snow, a disabled-rights activist, said the fear of not knowing whether she will be allowed to live has gripped her all her life.  “I remember when I was young, one of my friends would disappear.  We were always told they had gone away but I knew they had been killed.”

“The culture of death will spread if we don’t stand up now,” she added.

Perhaps the most moving and haunting message came from a girl whose disabilities prevent her from speaking.  Becky Till, with the aid of a key pad and a shrill computer-generated voice which rang throughout the numbingly cold square, repeated “I’m scared, I’m scared, I’m scared.”

Her speech echoed the fears of many of those gathered.  They feel that if Latimer’s sentence is reduced, open season will be declared on anyone with a disability.