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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I believe with my whole heart that every person matters. That they belong, have value, and contribute to society in ways that can’t even begin to be measured. Infants with disabilities are often seen as inherently less valuable than children without disabilities. Even more disturbing is how the infant’s disability itself is seen as a just excuse for murder, leniency and compassion on behalf of the murderer.

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Photo by Andrew and Hobbes on Flickr

Like the satisfying end of a black and white movie, Colin Brewer has resigned from his position as counselor of Cornwall for touting his outrageous beliefs about children with disabilities. I’m so glad that the combined pressure of advocates and concerned citizens has forced his resignation from public office.

However amidst the glow of my victory rush that Brewer is stepping down my eyes caught sight of these brief lines in the DNS briefing: “Even during the preparation of the [investigation] report, [Brewer] continued to attempt to justify his views, telling a council officer that “people are still telling me that what I said is what 80 per cent of people agree with.”

Sad to say but there’s truth in his statement; dark, hard, ugly, nasty truth. Don’t believe me? Feeling outraged that I could even type out these words?

Remember the Latimer case? Back in 1993 Robert killed his twelve year old daughter Tracy and called it a mercy killing. Global even made a sympathetic documentary about it that I criticized called Taking Mercy.

Public opinion about euthanasia and ‘mercy killing’ kids with disabilities is popular. Even participants polled on an episode of Doctor Phil endorsed it. It’s part of our mainstream. So much so that research has been conducted on how Canadian jurors react to the infanticide of infants with disabilities.

Sad to say but it backs Brewer’s hideous opinions.

The findings state that, “little has been done to recognize that children with disabilities are a high risk of abuse and homicide, [or] to educate the public..on the rights of the child. [There has been] utter disregard for…[the] protection of the right to life and survival for children with severe disabilities.”

Not all Canadians feel that way…but 36% do according to a 2010 poll of over 1,005 Canadians by Angus Reid. That’s more than a quarter of our nation! That’s outrageous! In Canada, an enlightened nation that has long been a pioneer of human rights, how is it that anyone thinks that a parent murdering a vulnerable child is okay?

Reflecting on Brewer’s archaic logic and discriminating ideals I’m concerned about how our justice system is actually treating kids with disabilities. There’s a darker more insidious threat for which he’s just a figurehead – the public opinion that ‘mercy killing’ kids with disabilities is okay.

What can we do to end the myth of mercy killings, the lie that children with disabilities are less valuable, and that parents have the right to kill said children?

Take the time to comment, share, and give an opinion on this story. I want to hear what those of you who work in community living have to say.


Inclusion Blog Post

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  1. Thank you for your thoughtful article. It needed to be written. We need to do more public education. Working with individuals with disabilities, I see first hand how our society is enriched by their lives.

  2. When is it EVER acceptable to murder your child?

    I have some empathy for Robert Latimer because clearly the family was not receiving the supports that they required. But murder is murder. Full stop.

    • That’s a powerful question Ellen. I agree that the supports needed were not present for the Latimer family.

      The support community has such a wealth of knowledge and education today in comparison to even twenty years ago. It gives me hope that today’s parents will be able to find the help they need for themselves and their child before choosing as Robert Latimer did.

  3. What Latimer did sent a horrifying message. In his defense he claimed his daughter lived in persistent, increasing and unrelenting agony. I am not familiar enough with the case to know if that’s true BUT what I do know is that if a child of my own had to live a life of torture and there was no end in sight, I honestly don’t know how I would react. Life is complex and difficult. Armchair criticism and banner waving – easy.

    • I am lucky on this blog to be in a position where I can draw attention to issues that I think need further exploration, more support, and better answers to the issues.

      You make an excellent point Villa. Me banner waving from my desk chair is easy. A lot easier than being the parent of a child in pain.

      If euthanasia is the answer, who makes that judgement? It’s a slippery question with no easy answer.

      I want to hear more about what people, like you, think is the answer? What do the people we support think?

      My goal in this article was to draw attention to the bias against children with disabilities and the value of their lives in our judicial system. The fact that there is documented bias that favors mercy killing makes me deeply uncomfortable.

      Thanks for commenting Villa and for reminding me to lead with empathy. I know I would struggle to see a child of mine in pain. I would hope that I wouldn’t see death as a solution. I believe that where there is life, there is hope.

      • Meite, thank you for taking such an open approach to my comment. I don’t know about ‘where there is life there is hope’. I think that’s something we thinkers think to feel better about things. Having lost numerous family members,their choice, to horrible things like schizophrenia, I can’t help but think it’s awful and tragic. This is suffering on a scale we cannot grasp. Disabilities, sometimes, are tragic sentences. Not always, not mostly, but often enough where I can’t help but shake my fist at the sky.

        I was fortunate to hear Darryl speak recently and have been following your blog since. Thank you for doing this.