I would be deeply concerned for the protection of women and girls with disabilities if Tracy Latimer’s killer is pardoned.
Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which Canada ratified in 2010, calls for Equal Recognition under the law. Yet Tracy’s killer, believing he was acting out of “mercy”, acted as judge, jury and executioner. And now, thinking he is being victimized by society, is appealing to those very courts for a mercy of his own, still without any remorse, and continues to maintain he has done the right thing.
Article 10 of the CRPD affirms the right to life of every human being. Yet, in the intervening years, Tracy was denied her Right to Life.
Tracy, 12-year-old a girl with disabilities who lived with cerebral palsy, was identified under the same Convention to be at particular risk for violence and abuse in extra need of protection as outlined in Article 6 — Women with Disabilities and Article 7 — Children with Disabilities.
She was murdered on her family farm by her father on Oct. 24, 1993.
Tracy’s murder is an example of ableism in its most heinous form. Feminist disability scholar Fran Odette cautions that ableism, the idea that disabled bodies are inferior, combined with sexism, place women and girls with disabilities at risk for unique types of violence and more violence.
In March 2018, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics released a report —Violent Victimization of Women with Disabilities— which lets us know women and girls living with disabilities like Tracy still live at risk. Specifically, the report notes that:
-In 45 per cent of all incidents of violent victimization involving women, the victim was as woman with a disability.
– Women with a disability are more likely to experience multiple victimization.
– Nearly two in five (36 per cent) women with a disability who were victimized reported two or more incidents, twice the proportion among women without a disability (20 per cent).
– Almost one in three (30 per cent) incidents of violent victimization of a person with a disability occurred in their private residence,
– One-quarter (26 per cent) of women with a disability were victimized in their own home.
Clearly, Canada has failed to adequately protect and support women and girls with disabilities.
Funding needs to be provided for women and girls with disabilities to be empowered to live safe and effective lives.
In its comments to Canada in May 2017, the Committee on the CRPD called on Canada to ensure that its federal strategy on gender-based violence included specific benchmarks to address all forms of violence against women and girls with disabilities.
It is impossible to think that in a country that places so much emphasis on addressing violence against women, that we could consider pardoning Tracy’s killer.
Carmela Hutchison is the President of the DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) Canada. You can find her on Twitter @manyspirit or @DAWNRAFHcanada.
Photo: Patrick Feller/Flickr
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