Catholic Group Presents its Argument to the Supreme Court of Canada in the Robert Latimer Appeal

Friday, May 05 2000

(Ottawa) — The Catholic Group for Health, Justice and Life has filed its written arguments (factum) with the Supreme Court of Canada in the Robert Latimer Appeal which will be heard June 14.

Robert Latimer is the Saskatchewan man convicted in the killing of his 12 year old daughter Tracy who was severely afflicted with cerebral palsy. He is appealing on the grounds that he acted out of necessity, that killing Tracy was the only option because there was no medical ability to alleviate her pain.

The Catholic Group presents four main arguments to the court:

  1. Under no circumstance does a parent’s obligation to act in a child’s best interest include a right to decide on death rather than life for a child;
  2. Killing one’s child in the circumstances of this case can never be excused on the basis of necessity;
  3. The minimum sentencing provisions for murder cannot be cruel and unusual punishment in light of the transcendent nature of the right to life and security of the person they protect;
  4. Granting a constitutional exemption in this case would be inappropriate as it would not only lead to great uncertainty in the law but would establish a new class of killer – the mercy killer.

The 19-page document suggests that “linking a convicted murderer’s minimum punishment to the condition of his victim through the defence of necessity, constitutional exemption, or surrogate suicide, rather than to the transcendent nature of the victim’s right to life and security of the person” would result in a double set of standards in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly for the disabled who “need not be taken seriously or protected to the same degree by the State, or the Court, as others.”

The Catholic Group sought permission to intervene in this case because the appeal by Robert Latimer raises profound legal, moral, social, philosophical and pastoral issues which have serious implications for all Canadians.

The Catholic Group for Health, Justice and Life represents four major organizations in the Catholic Church: the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, the Catholic Health Association of Canada, and the Canadian Association of the Knights of Columbus.