Tracy Latimer

Tracy Latimer was killed 30 years ago today. Tracy was a vulnerable 12 year old girl who was killed by her father. In an act of discriminatory violence Robert Latimer sought to unburden Tracy of life with a disability. Canadians with disabilities were disturbed not only by Tracy’s murder and copycat crimes that followed it, but also by the public’s understanding and support of Robert Latimer’s actions.

In 2018, on the 25th anniversary of Tracy’s death, we at Inclusion Canada released a blog post that both honoured Tracy’s life and put into words how her death could inform then-emerging discussions about the legalization of medical assistance in dying (MAiD) for mature minors. Today, on the 30th anniversary of Tracy’s death, our concerns have only grown. 

Five years ago, assisted death remained strictly an end of life option – a way for people whose deaths were “reasonably foreseeable” to be assisted to die peacefully. Now, five years later the law has been changed and assisted suicide is available to persons with disabilities whose deaths are not “reasonably foreseeable.” 

Marginalized people who suffer because of systemic oppression and inadequate care are dying. Their suicidality is being endorsed and facilitated by the same state that is failing to meet their most basic needs. The same will soon (March 17, 2024) be true for persons whose “sole underlying medical condition” is a mental illness. 

Therefore, in 2023, when elected officials discuss the prospect of legalizing MAiD for mature minors (the practice is not yet legal), they’re wrestling with whether or not to provide death by assisted suicide to minors with disabilities and mental illnesses who are not otherwise dying. This includes particularly at risk populations, like Indigenous youth. 

A committee of MPs and Senators recently recommended making MAiD available to mature minors only in end of life scenarios. In doing so, they cited experts who said that this would be a first step in a “staged approach,” necessary to basically warm Canadians up to the idea of minors dying by MAiD. 

Authorities are waiting for assisted suicide for mature minors with disabilities to feel right to Canadians. And we know from Tracy Latimer’s death that before long it likely will. It is our responsibility as individuals and as an informed collective to unpack our gut reactions and to recognize ableism when it shows its ugly face. So, just like in 2018, we’ll end this blog by asking “do we, as a country, like where we are headed?” 

Five years later, we, at Inclusion Canada, can confidently say that we do not.

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