WILKIE, Sask. – Robert Latimer has been granted permission by the parole board to attend a panel debate in the United Kingdom on end-of-life issues.
Latimer said Monday the Oct. 18 discussion is being organized by the University of Oxford and will feature eight panellists — four on each side of topics such as mercy killings and assisted suicides.
“Britain doesn’t want to make the same stupid mistakes they made here,” Latimer told The Canadian Press from the family farm in Wilkie, Sask.
“I am hoping to eventually gain my freedom and the courts show no interest in doing it, so you’ve got to take whatever shots at them you can. They were taking pot shots at us so you’ve got to return the favour.”
Latimer said he has been issued a limited passport for the trip.
The 59-year-old is currently serving a life sentence for second-degree murder in the 1993 death of his severely disabled 12-year-old daughter Tracy. He was granted full parole in 2010.
Tracy died of carbon monoxide poisoning after her father put her in a truck that had a hose fed from the exhaust into the cab.
Latimer admitted what he did, but said he wanted to end his daughter’s suffering from the chronic, excruciating pain of cerebral palsy.
He continues to maintain he did nothing wrong and hopes people attending the panel discussion realize how “crooked” the Canadian justice system has been in dealing with his case.
“People shouldn’t have to be tortured just to maintain life,” he said. “The technology that exists now, compared to 100 years ago to keep people alive is vastly different. They are far more successful at maintaining a live body than they ever used to be.”
Latimer was convicted in 1994 and, in 1995, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal upheld the mandatory minimum sentence of life, without parole for 10 years. Jurors in the case had recommended less.
The case went to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ordered a new trial in 1997 because of errors by the RCMP and prosecutor.
Latimer’s second trial concluded in November 1997 with another second-degree murder conviction.
The case was again appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled unanimously in January 2001 that Latimer had to serve 10 years in prison. The court said Latimer had other options to ease Tracy’s suffering.
Latimer continues to be troubled by a reference the Supreme Court made to an unidentified, more effective, medication Tracy could have been given to ease her pain. He was of the belief that Tylenol was all her fragile system could handle.
He has repeatedly written justice officials asking for clarification. He said he is currently working with a B.C. lawyer to seek a further review of his case through the courts.
Latimer was released from prison in February 2008 on day parole, but his initial request for full parole was denied.
The Federal Court eventually ordered the National Parole Board to revisit its decision denying an expansion of parole.
The judge said the board failed to follow its own legally binding principles — most notably that the paramount consideration for a person’s release be the protection of society.
The court noted Latimer has consistently been found to be at “very low” risk of reoffending.
Latimer currently lives in Victoria, but often travels back to the farm in Saskatchewan be with his family.