The Latimer Case: The Reflections of People with Disabilities - Chronology


1978—Bob and Laura Latimer marry.


23 November 1980—When Tracy is born, the hospital's fetal heart monitor is broken. The monitor tells doctors if the baby is in distress. Tracy's oxygen supply was cut off at birth. Cerebral palsy is caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain at birth. Brain cells die, interrupting motor commands to muscles and causing limbs to spasm. Dr. David Kemp, the Latimer family doctor, indicates that Tracy could have lived into her 40s. (In 1983, the Latimer's son Brian is born and in 1985 daughter Lindsay is born.)


August 1992—Tracy has spinal surgery to reduce the curvature of her spine.


August 1993—The Latimer's fourth child, son Lee, is born. In Laura's seventh month of pregnancy, the Latimer's place Tracy in a group home (Battleford Residential Services) in North Battleford. Laura Latimer was concerned that lifting Tracy would put the new baby at risk. (Two years earlier, she had had a miscarriage.) Tracy returned home in October, weighing only 38 pounds. According to Brian Hutchinson, "Doctors periodically reminded the Latimer's that [Tracy] could be hooked up to a gastrostomy tube for feeding inserted via a tiny incision in her abdominal wall, but they wouldn't hear of it. 'It was not an option,' Bob says. He declined. 'A tube seemed excessive,' he explains." (Saturday Night, March 1985 p.40.)

30 September 1993—The Supreme Court of Canada ruled against Sue Rodriguez's challenge to the Criminal Code. The court upheld the legality of Criminal Code Section 241(b) (prohibiting giving assistance to someone to commit suicide), which protects vulnerable people from being induced to commit suicide. This protection is based on the state's interest in protecting life. Following the decision, there was much media reporting on the assisted suicide cause.

6 October 1993—David Roberts in the Globe and Mail reports that in diary entries for this day, "...Mrs.Latimer wrote 'Tracy had a good evening. Her hip seemed better in the morning than at night. She was quite cheerful.' Indeed all of the entries in the journal referred to yesterday [in court] showed that in the last year of her life, Tracy was in pain but also cheerful, alert and even mischievous. There were plans to integrate her into the regular school system." (4 November 1997)

12 October 1993—Dr. Anne Dzus recommends an operation for Tracy's right hip. The operation would have addressed Tracy's pain.

18 October 1993—Laura Latimer's diary records that Tracy "ate well", and "was quite cheerful".

24 October 1993—Robert Latimer kills Tracy Latimer using carbon monoxide poisoning.

27 October 1993—Tracy's funeral is at the United Church in Wilkie, Saskatchewan.

1 November 1993—RCMP receive toxicology reports revealing that Tracy's blood was 80 percent saturated with carbon monoxide. A 50 percent saturation is life threatening. The sudden-death investigation is reclassified to homicide-murder.

4 November 1993—The police arrive at the Latimer farm, question Robert Latimer, and eventually arrest him and charge him with first degree murder. Latimer confesses to killing Tracy. (Latimer will spend 8 days in jail.) Eventually he is released from custody under the following conditions: he not leave the province without permission, report to the Wilkie RCMP every Friday and refrain from drinking alcohol.

16 December 1993—CBC radio reporter Amy Jo Ehman interviews Robert Latimer on videotape and this tape is later played at Latimer's trial. He tells Ehman, "I honestly don't believe there was ever any crime committed here."


16 November 1994—The jury convicts Robert Latimer of second degree murder and the judge sentences him to second degree murder without possibility of parole for ten years. "Life was not kind to Tracy, but it was a life that was hers to make of it what she could," states trial Judge Ross Wimmer. (Latimer's trial lasted seven days. The Crown called 16 witnesses. Laura Latimer was the last defense witness to testify. "Her birth was way, way sadder than her death. We lost Tracy when she was born," states Laura.)

25 November 1994—The court grants Robert Latimer bail and he returns home. Wilson Barker, a neighbor, posts a $10,000 surety.

November 1994—Grassroots support for Latimer increases. Janet and Jamie Bassett of Christopher Lake, SK start a campaign to have the Governor-General either suspend or reduce Latimer's sentence. Ottawa real estate lawyer, Paul Dioguardi starts a petition calling on Ottawa to use the section of the Criminal Code that allows sentences to be shortened on compassionate grounds. (Toronto Star, 3 Jan., 1995.)

4 December 1994—Alan Borovoy, counsel for Canadian Civil Liberties Association, calls upon Justice Minister Allan Rock to free Robert Latimer. Borovoy states, "We're not quarreling with the verdict on the facts. We're quarreling with the severity of the penalty on the facts." The CCLA also called for the abolishment of mandatory and minimum sentences because they do not allow for "exceptional circumstances". The Royal Prerogative in the Criminal Code allows a person convicted of murder to ask the cabinet for a full pardon or a reduced sentence.

5 December 1994—Ryan Wilkieson, a 16 year old with cerebral palsy, is murdered by his mother, Cathy, who commits suicide. Carbon monoxide is the cause of both deaths. This is 19 days after Robert Latimer was convicted and at the height of the public outpouring of support for Mr. Latimer.


3 January 1995—People in Equal Participation reports in the Winnipeg Free Press that it has raised $500 to intervene in Robert Latimer's appeal of his murder conviction. PEP representative Theresa Ducharme says PEP needs $12,000 to cover intervention costs.

10 January 1995—A national petition urging a federal government pardon for Latimer has 7,000 signatures, and 10,000 petitions are in circulation. By April 1995, the Latimers are receiving 50 to 100 letters a day (all but one out of every 100 offering support). $65,000 in donations for his legal defense fund have also been received.

17 February 1995—Winnipeg Free Press announces that CCD, Saskatchewan Voice and PEP will be asking the court for intervenor status.

20 February 1995—Justice Nicholas Sherstobitoff announces that CCD, the Saskatchewan Voice of the Handicapped and PEP have been granted intervenor status in Robert Latimer's appeal of his murder conviction in the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal. The intervenors are only allowed to submit written arguments. The judge expresses concern over creating, "multiple prosecutors" if he granted full status to the lobby groups, reports the Globe and Mail.

22 February 1995—The community of persons with disabilities holds vigils in remembrance of Tracy Latimer.

23 February 1995—Robert Latimer's appeal before the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal occurs. The grounds of his appeal include his contention that, "The learned trial judge erred in law in not charging the jury that he had the legal right to decide to commit suicide for his daughter, by virtue of her complete absence of physical and intellectual abilities." Defense lawyers argue for a three year suspended sentence. There are five hours of legal argument. Macleans (6 March 1995) reported that Latimer's lawyers used "public outrage over the inflexibility of the justice system in cases of mercy killing" in their arguments. Latimer surrendered himself into custody for the appeal hearing but was released on bail at the end of the day.

June 1995—The Report of the Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide recommends amendment of the Criminal Code to include a third category of murder that would not carry a mandatory life sentence but would carry a less severe penalty or that a separate offense of compassionate homicide could be established that would carry a less severe penalty.

18 July 1995—The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, in a 2 to 1 decision, upholds Robert Latimer's second degree murder conviction and his sentence—life with no opportunity for parole for 10 years. Chief Justice Edward Bayda argues in a dissenting decision that the sentence was too long despite the Criminal Code provisions. Justice Bayda saw the sentence as inconsistent with Latimer's rights under Section 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Latimer turns himself in to RCMP in Wilkie to begin serving his sentence. Dale Eisler reports that Latimer is released the following day, when the court extends his bail provisions pending the outcome of an application to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. (Macleans, 19 July 1995)

25 October 1995—It is revealed that at the request of Battleford Crown prosecutor Randy Kirkham in November 1994 the RCMP interviewed prospective jurors about their beliefs on religion, abortion and mercy killing. This calls into question whether or not Latimer received a fair hearing before an impartial jury (2 of those questioned served on the Latimer jury). This development in the case prompted Deputy Justice Minister Brent Cotter to tell the media that his department would be taking immediate action to reduce Mr. Latimer's bail conditions to make them less restrictive. He had been confined to his farm. Gossip initially revealed the RCMP questioning. Mark Brayford, Latimer's lawyer, heard these concerns and hired a private investigator to check the allegations. Brayford turned evidence over to the prosecutor's head office in Regina, which conducted an investigation which proved the allegations true. Mr. Kirkham was suspended with pay.

November 1995—CCD hosts a national meeting to plan a litigation strategy to protect fundamental human rights.


30 January 1996—CBC airs "Mourning Dove", a radio play, which is based on the Latimer case.

6 May 1996—With the assistance of Dr. Kevorkian, Canadian Austin Bastable, who has MS, commits suicide. (Mr. Bastable is the 28th person that Kevorkian assisted to commit suicide.)

27 June 1996—The Globe and Mail reports that Randy Kirkham has been charged with attempting to obstruct justice. Mr. Kirkham, who has been suspended with pay from his position, will lose pay after his first court appearance on 31 July 1996. Deputy Justice Minister Brent Cotter told the Globe and Mail, "What makes this different and exceptional is that it's alleged he was misconducting himself while performing his duties as a prosecutor. It's unique in Saskatchewan history."

12 September 1996—The Winnipeg Free Press reports that the Supreme Court of Canada will hear Robert Latimer's appeal on 27 November 1996. CCD determines that it cannot intervene in this case because it does not have a unique perspective on any of the grounds being argued at the Supreme Court. Latimer's appeal is based on the argument that police breached his Charter rights when obtaining a confession.

16 October 1996—CCD begins to publish the CCD Latimer Watch to present the disabled community's perspective on fundamental human rights. CCD's Human Rights Committee has decided that CCD will work on altering viewpoints in the court of public opinion, as it will not be intervening in the court case.

6 November 1996—Charles Blais, who has autism, is drowned by his mother, Danielle, in their Montreal home. Blais attempted suicide unsuccessfully. (Blais is originally charged with first-degree murder but the Crown agrees to accept a plea of guilty to manslaughter after studying psychiatric reports.)

10 November 1996—Cancer patient Paul Mills dies at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Science Centre in Halifax. Nurse Lynn MacInnis later testifies that she saw respirologist Dr. Nancy Morrison inject potassium chloride into Mills's intravenous line a few minutes before he died.

27 November 1996—Members of the community of persons with disabilities observe the proceedings of Robert Latimer's Supreme Court Appeal.


6 February 1997—The Supreme Court of Canada sets aside Robert Latimer's conviction of second degree murder; because there were irregularities in the jury selection process. However, the court upholds Latimer's confession.

6 May 1997--Halifax police are alerted, by another doctor, to Dr. Morrison's role in the death of Paul Mills. Dr. Nancy Morrison is charged with first degree murder in the death of cancer patient Paul Mills.

2 July 1997—Danielle Blais receives a 23 month suspended sentence for the drowning death of her disabled son, Charles, thus escaping jail time. The judge rejects the Crown's call for a 3 year sentence. Instead of jail, Blais will spend the first year of her sentence in a half way house, submit to psychiatric treatment and find a job. The Autism Society of Greater Montreal offers her a part-time job fund raising.

23 October 1997—The community of persons with disabilities begins to hold vigils in memory of Tracy Latimer. A vigil is held in Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto and on Sunday 26 October 1997 a church service is held in St. John's Anglican Church near High Park in Toronto. Other events are held across the country. The Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities announces that it will establish a memorial monument for Tracy Latimer.

27 October 1997—Robert Latimer's second trial for second degree murder begins.

30 October 1997—Irene Fraess, director of the center where Tracy went to school for 7 years, tells the court that Tracy could activate a wheelchair switch which turned on a radio. She says Tracy loved music.

4 November 1997—Psychiatrist Dr. Robin Menzies testifies that Latimer does not trust doctors. He also has a clinical phobia or fear of needles, injury and blood that played a role in his personality. But the killing in Dr. Menzies's opinion was not the result of impulse, anger or whim. A child care worker at Tracy's school, where Tracy spent 8 hours a day, testifies that Tracy was no more physically or mentally disabled than 9 other students at the center. An orthopedic surgeon testifies that Tracy's back surgery one year earlier had gone well and the hip surgery, if it had occurred, might have relieved her pain to a large extent, perhaps even to the point of her being pain free. (David Roberts, "Latimer hated pain, doctor says," Globe and Mail, 5 November 1997)

5 November 1997—A second jury finds Robert Latimer guilty of second degree murder. The jury recommends he be eligible for parole after one year, even though the minimum sentence is 25 years with no chance of parole for 10 years. Latimer was released on his own recognizance, subject to the same terms he has been under for the last three years—abstain from alcohol, not posses any firearms and keep the peace, reports the Winnipeg Sun (6 November 1997)

6 November 1997—The Crown seeks to reduce the first degree murder charges against Dr. Nancy Morrison to manslaughter charges. The police oppose this action.

7 November 1997—Latimer remains free on bail until Mark Brayford presents a motion asking for a constitutional exemption to the minimum sentence of 25 years in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years. It is being argued that the minimum sentence violates the constitutional right of being free of cruel and unusual punishment.

15 November 1997—Media report that Latimer's defense fund tops $100,000 in contributions. It is estimated that his legal costs will exceed $140,000.

24 November 1997—Joe Woodward in the 24 November 1997 British Columbia Report states that, "Latimer, out on $500 bail was back in court last week seeking a constitutional exemption from the 10 year sentence on the grounds it constituted cruel and unusual punishment." Feschuk and Roberts report in the Globe and Mail that Latimer has spent 18 days in jail. ("Ottawa may consider leniency" 7 November 1997)

1 December 1997—Judge Ted Noble grants Robert Latimer a constitutional exemption. Rather than serving the mandatory sentence for second degree murder (10 years without parole), Latimer will serve less than two years.

17 December 1997—The Saskatchewan Crown makes an application to appeal the sentence handed down to Robert Latimer. The Crown argues that the judge erred by: failing to disallow Latimer's claim for a constitutional exemption from the sentence, by granting a constitutional exemption from the mandatory provisions of the Criminal Code without finding them in violation of the Charter, granting a constitutional exemption without considering the effect of the Royal Prerogative of mercy, and imposing an illegal sentence contrary to the provisions of the Criminal Code. Latimer also makes an application to appeal. Latimer contends the Judge erred by: failing to leave necessity as an issue for consideration by the jury among other grounds.

19 December 1997—Robert Latimer is released on bail, following his lawyer's filing notice that he will appeal Mr. Latimer's conviction and sentence.


13 January 1998—The Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Saskatchewan Voice of Persons with Disabilities, People First Canada, Canadian Association for Community Living, the DisAbled Women's Network Canada and People in Equal Participation agree to apply jointly as intervenors in Robert Latimer's Appeal to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal.

27 February 1998—Judge Hughes Randall discharges Dr. Nancy Morrison from a preliminary hearing saying there is not enough evidence to try her for first-degree murder or any related offences. "A nurse testified during the hearing that Dr. Morrison had injected Mr. Mills [a cancer patient from New Brunswick] with nitroglycerine and potassium chloride to 'end his suffering'. But the judge said no jury would ever convict." (The Halifax Herald, 2 March 1998.)

20 March 1998—Dr. Nancy Morrison resumes full hospital duties as a respirologist.

19 June 1998—Randy Kirkham is found not guilty of two counts of obstructing justice in the first trial of Robert Latimer. A Saskatchewan judge ruled Kirkham did not attempt to get personal information about jurors to gain an advantage for the prosecution.

19 October 1998—The Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Saskatchewan Voice of Persons with Disabilities, People First Canada, Canadian Association for Community Living, the DisAbled Women's Network Canada and People in Equal Participation participate in Robert Latimer's appeal as intervenors and are permitted 20 minutes of oral argument before the court.

27 October 1998—Madam Justice Jill Hamilton reserves decision on whether Provincial Court Judge Hughes Randall erred when he discharged Doctor Nancy Morrison in the case concerning the death of Paul Mills. The Prosecution argued that Nancy Morrison should have stood trial on at least a charge of attempted murder for her role in the death of Mills.

23 November 1998—The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal set aside the Constitutional exemption given to Robert Latimer by Justice Ted Noble and upheld the mandatory sentence for second degree murder.

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