The Catholic Group for Health, Justice and Life Seeks to Intervene in the Robert Latimer Case

Thursday, September 09 1999

(Ottawa)–The Catholic Group for Health, Justice and Life has filed an application with the Supreme Court of Canada to intervene as a friend of the Court in the Robert Latimer case that is expected to be heard in about six months time.

The intervention is being sought because the appeal by Robert Latimer raises profound legal, moral, social, philosophical and pastoral issues which have serious implications for all Canadians.

Robert Latimer was convicted in November 1997 for the second degree murder of his 12-year old daughter Tracy, who was severely afflicted with cerebral palsy. He is appealing his conviction to the Supreme Court of Canada 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.

It is the Catholic’s group’s position that no one, including a mother or father, should be granted the total exercise of arbitrary power over another human being. Granting Mr. Latimer the power to decide on death rather than life for his daughter, either through the defense of necessity, a constitutional exemption, or as a surrogate decision maker would facilitate the exercise of that arbitrary power while devaluing the life of his child.

This position not only rests on the state’s obligation to protect the vulnerable but also on the Catholic Church’s moral, ethical and religious position that human life, at every stage of development, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and is worthy of protection especially when most vulnerable, such as the child in this case.

The Group 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.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is the national association of Catholic bishops in Canada with the pastoral responsibility for 12.5 million Catholics across the country. The Catholic Women’s League of Canada represents 110,000 women in 48 dioceses and 1415 parishes in Canada. The Catholic Health Association of Canada represents many health and social service centres including 127 hospitals and health care residences as well as health professionals across the country. The Canadian Association of the Knights of Columbus represents 250,000 men and their families who pay particular attention to helping those in difficulty, especially those who are in need or unable to defend themselves.