Thursday, May 30, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MONTREAL, QC – The Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) is alarmed by the public and legal response to Michel Cadotte’s killing of his spouse of 19 years, Jocelyne Lizotte. In February of 2017, Mr. Cadotte pressed a pillow over his wife’s face until she stopped breathing. This week, he was sentenced by the Quebec Superior Court to two years less a day for his conviction for manslaughter, a distressingly lenient sentence for the severity of his crime.

Jocelyn Lizotte had Alzheimer’s disease at the time of her death. Her illness became her defining feature both in the case and in the media response to it. Reaction to her death epitomizes the devalued position of persons with disabilities in Canada. Michel Cadotte served as a caregiver to Jocelyn, and this role was a critical factor in determining his sentence.

“Being a caregiver does not give Mr. Cadotte the right to end a life,” shared Joy Bacon, CACL President, “it’s shocking that people are sentenced to similar periods for significantly lesser crimes like theft from an employer or refusing to blow into a breathalyzer.”

Portraying the lives of persons with disabilities as dispensable perpetuates their devaluation in Canadian society. The media painted Mr. Cadotte as a victim, suggesting that the burden of care drove him to murder his wife; they put his best interests at the centre of the debate. In reality, their misplaced sympathy dehumanizes individuals with disabilities by ignoring their legal right to life. If Jocelyn Lizotte did not have Alzheimer’s disease, the media would portray Mr. Cadotte in an entirely different light.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), signed and ratified by Canada, recognizes the equal rights of persons with disabilities in international law, including the right to life on an equal basis with other without discrimination based on disability. In Canada, beyond Canada’s obligations under the CRPD, the right to life is enshrined in section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The right to life means that the lives of persons with disabilities, including persons who have Alzheimer’s, are just as valuable as those of any other human being,” stressed Krista Carr, Executive Vice-President of CACL. “Ms. Lizotte clearly did not enjoy the right to life on an equal basis with others, and neither the courts nor the media appear to believe she deserved that protection.”

Canadian courts must uphold the legally-recognized rights of all persons like Jocelyn Lizotte – in particular, her right to life, liberty and security. We urge the media outlets to refrain from further stereotyping people living with significant cognitive or other disabilities, as this contributes to legal and social justifications for terminating their lives.

– 30 –

Media Contact: Marc Muschler, Senior Communications Officer, CACL, mmuschler@cacl.ca

CACL is composed of ten provincial and three territorial associations, with over 400 local associations spread across the country and more than 40,000 members. CACL leads the way in helping Canadians build an inclusive Canada by strengthening families, defending rights, and transforming communities into places where everyone can belong.