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Robert Latimer speaks with media near a playset at his family farm in Wilkie, Saskatchewan, Mar. 15, 2008. (GEOFF HOWE/The Canadian Press)
Robert Latimer speaks with media near a playset at his family farm in Wilkie, Saskatchewan, Mar. 15, 2008. (GEOFF HOWE/The Canadian Press)

Globe editorial

Give Latimer more latitude in his day parole Add to ...

Robert Latimer is not a threat to public safety. Everyone involved in his life, including his parole supervisor, says the constructive thing to do is to ease his parole conditions before he is granted full parole in four months. Even the Supreme Court of Canada, in insisting that he be sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder in the mercy killing of his 12-year-old disabled daughter, Tracy, said he posed no risk to anyone. Why, then, does the National Parole Board keep finding illogical reasons to restrict Mr. Latimer's freedom more than is necessary?

Not merely illogical - unlawful. Mr. Latimer, who is now living in Victoria, while training to be an electrician and managing the family farm in Saskatchewan from afar, lives in a halfway house five nights a week, and at an apartment two nights. After 16 months on day parole, he asked to spend five nights a week at the apartment. The board said he hadn't shown "exceptional circumstances" to justify the move, and besides, he could choose "less onerous" ways to manage his day. But the parole board failed to consider that the protection of the public is paramount in the law on parole, Madam Justice Anne Mactavish of the Federal Court of Canada ruled this week. The law provides for the least restrictive form of release consistent with public safety and the prisoner's reintegration. The question of how he manages his day is irrelevant, she said. (Would that all parolees had a job, a training program and a farm to run.)

This isn't the first time the parole board has misread the law in regards to Mr. Latimer. The Supreme Court, overturning a judge's ruling to sentence him to just a year in jail (it said Parliament's right to protect vulnerable children shouldn't be second-guessed), made him wait 10 years for full parole, the minimum for second-degree murder. He was eligible for day parole after seven years. The question was whether he was an undue risk to offend. The National Parole Board, making up the rules as it went along, said he hadn't shown "insight," i.e., accepted the error of his ways. It wanted him to submit to mind control - oops, counselling - until he deemed himself a murderer. That decision was tossed out by the board's appeal division.

A life sentence means Mr. Latimer will be reporting to parole authorities for the rest of his life. The board needs to accept that he has paid his debt to society. He killed from compassion, according to a jury and a judge, who knew all the details of Tracy's life and death, and was punished as a deterrent to others. It is not the parole board's job to heap more punishment on him.

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