Eloquent Defense of Life Delivered in Canadian Parliamentary Debate
a debate in the House of Commons Friday, Canadian Alliance MP
Jason Kenney made a spirited defense of the right to life in
remarks against euthanasia. Kenney spoke to a private members
bill on the issue of lenient penalties for those who claim to
murder the disabled out of misguided sympathy.
Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast,
Madam Speaker, at the outset, I would like to thank my hon. colleague,
the member for Dartmouth, for having brought the motion before the
House. I understand it is an issue close to her heart.
It is sometimes difficult as an elected legislator to bring forward
positions which may be morally and conscientiously right but which may
not be politically right. She certainly has done so in this motion. I
commend her for her principle and her courage in so doing.
The motion reads:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should recognize
and uphold, in its treatment of requests for the royal prerogative
of mercy, the principle that the lives of all Canadians, including
the lives of persons with disabilities, must be treated, and be
perceived to be treated, equally under the law.
It is quite clear that the motion implicitly addresses the particular
situation of Robert Latimer who was convicted of killing his daughter
Tracy and is serving a sentence of 10 years. It is also a general
application. I do not mean to suggest that it would apply in that case
only. It is a general application and a principle that is extremely
I regret that apparently a majority of Canadians believe that Mr.
Latimer should receive the royal prerogative of clemency and have his
sentence curtailed by an executive order of the governor in council, by
cabinet. I gather most Canadians believe this because they regard the
actions of Mr. Latimer as somehow having been at least morally justified
if not morally obligatory, that is to say, to have killed his severely
I think what the member for Dartmouth seeks to do is to remind us, as
parliamentarians and as Canadians citizens, is that we cannot and must
not make distinctions between human persons and their right to life.
Therein lies the first principle, not just of the motion but of our
entire legal structure, legal system and, I would suggest, western
civilization. That is to say, the sanctity of human life and the notion
that the right to take life can only exist in self-defence, and that to
take the life of individuals because of the circumstances of their life,
be it their ethnicity, religion, age, social or economic condition or
their physical and mental condition is to violate the very first premise
upon which a society founded on the rule of law exists. That is the
inviolable dignity of the human person.
The first words of our Constitution Act, 1982 read:
Whereas Canada is founded upon principles which recognize the
supremacy of God and the rule of law.
That sentence, so often missed and misunderstood in our jurisprudence
and in our public debates, is so central to this premise. What it says
is that the rights which we possess, the rights of which the charter
speaks, are not rights granted by the state, by a legislature or by a
court, nor are they rights that can be abrogated by any of those
institutions. Rather, these are rights that are inherent and inalienable
in the human person. If they are inalienable, they are and must be
granted by a creator.
No man, no parliament, no father, even a father in great emotional
turmoil and confusion, has the right to suspend and to violate the
inalienable dignity of the human person.
This principle perhaps was most beautifully articulated in the
preamble to the American declaration of independence, which is really a
foundational of modern liberal democracy, where Thomas Jefferson wrote
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights, that among these are Life-
Men and women have certain inalienable rights. They cannot be
alienated by even a grieving father wishing, in his subjective mind, to
put a handicapped daughter out of her misery.
While I perhaps can understand to some degree the anguish of some
parents of severely disabled children, I also recognize the heroism of
many more parents and adoptive parents of severely disabled children who
exercise compassion every day, not through the ease of terminating the
life of their child but through their compassion of giving themselves
wholly to their children.
Compassion is a concept much misunderstood in our public discourse.
Compassion does not mean feeling sorry for somebody. It quite literally
means, in its etymological root, com-passion. Passion means to suffer
with, not to suffer with a disabled person and take away the person's
right to life.
The motion and the principle to which it speaks is critically
important because, as the parliamentary secretary sort of dodged around,
there is a large public movement to seek royal clemency for Mr. Latimer
and people who may be in a similar circumstance in the future. Should
this or a future cabinet bend to that political pressure, it will, I
submit, undermine and unravel the very basis of our jurisprudence, our
rule of law and our right to claim we are a civilized society.
At various times in history, individuals, politicians and jurors have
sought to make qualitative distinctions between different categories of
human beings and to assign to those different categories different
degrees of rights.
What comes to mind of course is the infamous Dred Scott decision by
the U.S. supreme court in 1857 wherein that court ascribed to
African-Americans the status of only four-fifths of a human being and
thereby denied them the inalienable rights about which the American
In the century just passed, what John Paul II has referred to as the
century of tears, we have seen one brutal, horrific example after
another of state systems, most notoriously the Nazi system, which again
made a qualitative distinction between different human beings based on
arbitrary criteria, in that case race and religion.
When such distinctions are made, we unleash a juggernaut of violence
against the innocent. That is what happened in an isolated example when
Tracy Latimer was killed.
Let us not forget that the Nazi movement started its reign of terror
and death, not with the execution of Jews in the Holocaust but rather
with the eugenics program which sought to eliminate those who were
deemed imperfect because of some condition of life, such as being
mentally or physically disabled.
Josef Mengele and his evil peers did things to people in a way
perhaps much more cold-bloodedly than what Robert Latimer did to his own
daughter. They looked at human beings as not being human beings and
decided they had the right to remove their dignity that God had granted
them. That is a notion we cannot and must not ever accept.
I will close by submitting that we ought to pass the motion and
direct the cabinet never to grant clemency to someone who has alienated
the inviolable right to life of a person because of his or her mental or
Jason Kenney, 37th Parliament, 1st Session Edited Hansard, Number
103, Friday, October 26, 2001.
See the whole debate in the
Jason Kenney is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Calgary
Southeast. He is currently the Official Opposition's Chief Critic for
Finance. Prior to seeking election, Mr. Kenney served as President and
Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation, an 80,000
member advocacy organization which promotes fiscal responsibility and
democratic reforms. Kenney previously served as the founding Executive
Director of the Alberta Taxpayer's Association. Mr. Kenney was also the
volunteer director for several non-profit organizations, including the
National Foundation for Family Research and Education, the Catholic
Civil Rights League and Catholic Charities.