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Robert Latimer challenges his travel restrictions in Federal Court

Robert Latimer in Ottawa on March 17, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Hanson.

A Saskatchewan farmer who was convicted of killing his severely disabled daughter is challenging a National Parole Board decision that prevents him from travelling freely outside of Canada.

Robert Latimer filed a notice of application in Federal Court in Vancouver on Monday, requesting a judge review a decision that was made by the parole board’s appeal division in November and requires him to obtain pre-approval for international travel.

The application is timely because about a month ago, Latimer received clearance to travel to Peru for a Habitat for Humanity project, but his plans might fall through because officials won’t be able to process his travel documents until mid-February, said his lawyer Jason Gratl.

The parole board did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“International travel for parolees is often a complex, Byzantine exercise that can be difficult to arrange,” said Gratl during an interview. “This would be akin to advance approval for all those travel arrangement and would cut through a tremendous amount of bureaucratic red tape.”

For example, the parole board must pre-authorize a parolee’s travel arrangements and co-ordinate their activities with foreign customs officials and even airlines, said Gratl.

None of the work can be done in a reasonable amount of time, and it is often so complicated and bureaucratic that travel is not practical, he added.

But according to the document filed by Latimer, the parole board can grant a permanent exemption to international travel restrictions.

This past July, though, it turned down a request by Latimer that he be allowed to travel freely outside the country without having to apply for a limited-time passport.

The appeal division upheld that decision in a Nov. 14 ruling.

In the Federal Court document, Latimer argues the appeal division did not consider his application based on its merits and did not find the earlier decision on the issue by the board unreasonable.

The document also questions whether the parole board’s policy of granting exemptions is consistent with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The application asks the judge to set aside the appeal division’s decision and refer the matter back to the parole board.

It also asks the judge to declare the parole board’s policy on the matter inconsistent with federal legislation.

Latimer was convicted of second-degree murder in 1997 and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years for killing his severely disabled daughter, Tracy.

His daughter was 12 at the time of her death in 1993. She had cerebral palsy and died when her dad piped exhaust into the cab of his truck.

He was released from prison on day parole in 2008 and granted full parole, with some conditions, in 2010.

This past July, the board removed another of Latimer’s release conditions, and ruled he no longer needs one-on-one psychological counselling as part of his full parole.

But Latimer was still banned from having responsibility for anyone with a significant disability, and it denied his request to travel freely outside Canada without having to apply first for a limited time passport.