No matter which side of the fence you sit on over the Robert Latimer case, it’s clear the issue of “mercy killing” needs to be addressed by Canadians because the current ambiguity is unacceptable.
Groups like the Ontario Association for Community Living and the Campaign Life Coalition applauded Monday’s decision by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, which ruled that Mr. Latimer must serve a minimum 10-year jail sentence for his conviction of second-degree murder in the death of his severely-disabled daughter, Tracy, five years ago.
A judge had given him a two-year sentence.
Others, of course, are decrying the decision, arguing the mandatory 10-year sentence constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” given his crime. The Winnipeg Free Press, for instance, questioned on its front page yesterday whether it’s fair that Mr. Latimer got roughly the same penalty as a man who killed a young store clerk during a robbery.
A tough—but legitimate—question.
Obviously the Latimer case leaves more questions than answers, including whether mandatory minimum sentences prevent the flexibility necessary in meting out justice. There’s also the question of whether killing someone out of love and compassion is acceptable to Canadians? But that, in itself, isn’t cut-and-dried, either. For instance, what constitutes “love and compassion,” and who decides? More importantly, is there a difference when someone is able to ask to die versus someone who cannot; and whether it’s only acceptable in cases where the person is terminally ill and about to die?
There’s also the fear that giving Mr. Latimer a lighter sentence will mean open season on the disabled, particularly children.
The Supreme Court of Canada likely will be called upon to pass its judgement on the Latimer case, and what it decides could set the legal precedent that may answer some of these questions.
But Parliament is where this issue ultimately must be decided, and it’s time politicians tackled the matter instead of running away from it.