Theresa Ducharme

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Theresa Ducharme (1945 – June 7, 2004) was a Canadian disability rights activist and a perennial candidate for public office. She lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Activist[edit]

Ducharme was required to use a wheelchair after suffering polio in 1953. She subsequently went into a coma for six months during her mid-twenties,[1] and for the rest of her life required a respirator. She founded the disability rights advocacy group People in Equal Participation Inc. in 1981, and was the organization's chair for many years thereafter.[2]

In 1981, she became the first person requiring an on-board life-support system to fly as a regular passenger on a commercial Canadian airliner. Her flight to Vancouver was the culmination of a lengthy battle with officials from the government and Air Canada, who had resisted her attempts to fly because of medical concerns.[3]

Ducharme was a vocal opponent of euthanasia. In 1993, she asked the Supreme Court of Canada to rule against Sue Rodriguez, a British Columbia woman who had a terminal illness and was seeking the right to take her life. Ducharme was quoted as saying, "We believe in the commandment, thou shall not kill. We have enough obstacles that access to life, not access to death is our commitment."[4] She later called for criminal charges to be laid against Member of Parliament Svend Robinson, following Robinson's decision to sit beside Rodriguez as she apparently committed suicide with her doctor's assistance.[5]

Ducharme organized a national anti-euthanasia petition in 1994, and received more than 27,000 signatures. She personally presented the petition to Member of Parliament Don Boudria, who later tabled it before parliament.[6]

In 1995, Ducharme sought legal standing for her organization to testify at Robert Latimer's appeal of a conviction for second-degree murder. Latimer had killed his daughter, a twelve-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, in an act that many had described as a mercy killing. Ducharme argued that Latimer's conviction should be upheld, and indicated her support for a ruling which gave him a life sentence.[7] She sought legal standing again when Latimer was granted a new trial in 1996, and accused the media of having a pro-Latimer bias.[8]

Ducharme also campaigned to have several public services made wheelchair-accessible in her home city of Winnipeg. She led a public protest again the provincial government's decision to privatize home care services in 1996,[9] and later testified before the Romanow commission on health.[10] In 2003, she supported city council's decision to legislate a smoking ban in Winnipeg.[11]

Ducharme was a Ukrainian Catholic, and was opposed to abortion as well as euthanasia. In 1995, she was given an Apostolic Blessing from Pope John Paul II.[12]

She was given the Province of Manitoba's first annual Special Caring Award in 1998.[13]

Ducharme wrote a self-published autobiography, entitled Life and Breath. Federal cabinet minister Lloyd Axworthy wrote a preface to the book.[14]

Political candidate[edit]

Ducharme ran for the Transcona-Springfield school board in 1980 and 1992, and for the Transcona ward on Winnipeg City Council in 1983 and 1986. She was considered a fringe candidate, and was defeated each time.

Ducharme supported Susan Thompson's bid to become Mayor of Winnipeg in 1992, but was later strongly critical of Thompson's record in office.[15] She was Thompson's first declared challenger in the 1995 municipal election.[16] Ducharme said that her top priority was creating a youth advisory committee of city council,[17] and she also criticized Thompson for not having done more to promote downtown business.[18] She was again considered a fringe candidate, and finished well behind the frontrunners.

She campaigned for the Transcona ward again in 1998, finishing second to Shirley Timm-Rudolph. During the election, she spoke against youth curfews and the sale of Winnipeg Hydro.[19]

Ducharme also sought election to the Canadian House of Commons as an independent candidate in 1997 and 2000. She planned to run for mayor again in 2002, but withdrew due to health problems.[20] She had intended to run in another municipal by-election shortly before her death.[21]

Death[edit]

Ducharme suffered a heart attack in June 2004, as she was being driven to hospital for dialysis treatment. She never regained consciousness, and died on June 7.[22]

External links[edit]

Electoral record[edit]

Canadian federal election, 2000: Winnipeg—Transcona
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
New Democratic Bill Blaikie 15,680 47.85 −2.42 $35,468.07
Alliance Shawn Rattai 8,336 25.44 +8.21 $21,800.25
Liberal Bret Dobbin 6,041 18.43 −3.03 $17,596.32
     Progressive Conservative Chris Brewer 2,133 6.51 −2.46
Green C. David Nickarz 229 0.70
     N/A (Christian Heritage) Robert Scott 146 0.45 −0.83 $3,639.93
     Independent Theresa Ducharme 118 0.36 −0.13
Communist James Hogaboam 87 0.27 $263.77
Total valid votes 32,770 100.00
Total rejected ballots 127 0.39 −0.21
Turnout 32,897 58.38 −1.98
Electors on the lists 56,345
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.


1998 Winnipeg municipal election, Councillor, Transcona Wardedit
Candidate Total votes  % of total votes
(x)Shirley Timm-Rudolph 12,223 82.49
Theresa Ducharme 2,594 17.51
Total valid votes 14,817 100.00


Canadian federal election, 1997: Winnipeg—Transcona
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
New Democratic Bill Blaikie 16,640 50.27 +11.11 $37,996
Liberal Rosemary Broadbent 7,105 21.46 −16.84 $25,771
Reform Helen Sterzer 5,703 17.23 +3.37 $19,506
     Progressive Conservative Glenn Buffie 2,968 8.97 +3.93 $7,682
Christian Heritage Robert Scott 423 1.28 $3,633
     Independent Theresa Ducharme 161 0.49 $111
Marxist–Leninist Ken Kalturnyk 104 0.31   $11
Total valid votes 33,104 100.00
Total rejected ballots 199 0.60 +0.25
Turnout 33,303 60.36 −9.64
Electors on the lists 55,177
Percentage change figures are factored for redistribution.
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Helen Henderson, "'Someone would have loved her and would have cared for her'", Toronto Star, 7 November 1997, 1
  2. ^ "Disabled want their say at appeal", Winnipeg Free Press, 3 January 1995. The organization had forty members in 1995.
  3. ^ "Air passenger is first to ride with system", Globe and Mail, 3 October 1981, P18.
  4. ^ Stephen Bindman, "High court reserves decision on Rodriguez's suicide bid", Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 21 May 1993, A7.
  5. ^ "Doctor-assisted suicides nothing new in Manitoba", Hamilton Spectator, 24 February 1994, D14.
  6. ^ Brad Oswald, "Ontario MP makes good on vow to fight euthanasia", Winnipeg Free Press, 17 August 1994.
  7. ^ "Disabled want their say at appeal", Winnipeg Free Press, 3 January 1995.
  8. ^ Sandra Cordon, "Supreme Court to hear Latimer appeal", 9 February 1996. A1; "Ducharme wants role in Latimer trial Canadian Press", Winnipeg Free Press, 10 November 1995, A6.
  9. ^ Alexandra Paul, "Home care concerns activist", Winnipeg Free Press, 19 March 1996, A3; Bud Robertson, "Home-care strike widens", Winnipeg Free Press, 22 April 1996, A4.
  10. ^ Thomas Walkom, "Romanow gets earful on medicare reform", Toronto Star, 7 March 2002, A6.
  11. ^ Mary Agnes Welch, "Hell on Wheelchairs", Winnipeg Free Press, 31 March 2003, A6.
  12. ^ David Kuxhaus, "Ducharme receives papal honor for battle against euthanasia", Winnipeg Free Press, 3 April 1995; Helen Fallding, "Activist held governments to account", Winnipeg Free Press, 8 June 2004, B1.
  13. ^ Kevin Rollason, "Caring rewarded", Winnipeg Free Press, 14 March 1998, A8.
  14. ^ MHR Connections, Manitoba Human Rights Commission, June 2004, Volume 4, Number 6, accessed 8 March 2007.
  15. ^ Lindor Reynolds, "You can fight city, but city may not notice", Winnipeg Free Press, 23 March 1993.
  16. ^ Nick Martin, "Duguid to seek mayor's job?", Winnipeg Free Press, 28 March 1995.
  17. ^ "Where they stand on the issues", Winnipeg Free Press, 8 October 1995.
  18. ^ Nick Martin, "Sparks flying at forum", Winnipeg Free Press, 13 October 1995, A1.
  19. ^ Aldo Santin, "Timm-Rudolph fights on record", Winnipeg Free Press, 16 October 1998, A10.
  20. ^ "Ducharme withdraws from mayoral race", Winnipeg Free Press, 6 September 2002.
  21. ^ Helen Fallding, "Activist held governments to account", Winnipeg Free Press, 8 June 2004, B1.
  22. ^ Helen Fallding, "Activist held governments to account", Winnipeg Free Press, 8 June 2004, B1.