HOW MANY OF US CAN CLAIM THAT KIND OF IM­PACT?

StarMetro Toronto - - BIG OPINIONS - James Schae­fer Vi­nay Menon

If we didn’t use the word “ex­tra­or­di­nary” at ev­ery turn, it would be a per­fect word to de­scribe the ac­tions of both Anita Cener­ini and Au­drey Parker.

Cener­ini, 56, of Win­nipeg, lost her sol­dier son to sui­cide in 2004. Parker, 57, from Hal­i­fax, lost her life to metastatic breast can­cer in a widely pub­li­cized med­i­cally as­sisted death last week.

Each of them, in act­ing bravely and pub­licly, has changed the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion around a piv­otal and painful so­cial is­sue. How many of us can claim that kind of im­pact?

Cener­ini is this year’s Sil­ver Cross Mother, a mov­ing ti­tle be­stowed by the Cana­dian Le­gion that means she will place a wreath at the Na­tional

Anita Cener­ini and Au­drey Parker, in act­ing bravely and pub­licly, have changed the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion around a piv­otal and painful so­cial is­sue, writes Ju­dith Tim­son.

War Memo­rial in Ot­tawa on Re­mem­brance Day.

What makes her hon­our sig­nif­i­cant is that she will be the first mother of a sol­dier who died by sui­cide to hold the ti­tle.

Her son, Pte. Thomas Welch, hanged him­self at the army base at Petawawa, Ont., less than three months af­ter re­turn­ing from ser­vice in Afghanistan. He was 22. MORE ON AU­DREY PARKER AT THES­TAR.COM/HAL­I­FAX

Cener­ini fought for years to have her son’s death re­clas­si­fied as a mil­i­tary death. It fi­nally was in 2017.

She said in a state­ment: “We can no longer al­low fear and ig­no­rance to deny these sol­diers the hon­our they de­serve in their deaths, and the dig­nity and re­spect for the fam­i­lies left to mourn.” You can bet she will use her year­long po­si­tion to re­in­force that point. Bravo to the Le­gion for giv­ing her the op­por­tu­nity to do so.

In Hal­i­fax, on the same day Cener­ini was an­nounced as a Sil­ver Cross Mother, Parker was get­ting ready to die. She had been di­ag­nosed with Stage 4 breast can­cer in 2016, which had now spread to her bones. She had been ap­proved for a med­i­cally as­sisted death.

There was just one prob­lem. Parker would have liked to hang on at least un­til Christ­mas but she was wor­ried that be­cause the can­cer had be­gun to in­vade the lin­ing of her brain, she might not be able to give the legally re­quired lat­estage con­sent. And so she went pub­lic with her de­ci­sion to end her life be­fore she was quite ready to do so, hop­ing it would spur pol­icy-mak­ers to change the re­quire­ment for late-stage con­sent in her cat­e­gory.

This Fri­day Au­drey Parker will be cel­e­brated at a ser­vice in Hal­i­fax. Be­fore she died, she in­vited ev­ery­one to come, and pe­ti­tion their mem­ber of par­lia­ment to change the law. THES­TAR.COM/OPIN­IONS

OR­DI­NARY WOMEN, EX­TRA­OR­DI­NARY ACTS

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Starmetro’s Pub­lic Ed­i­tor wel­comes reader com­ments and in­for­ma­tion about fac­tual er­rors. If you see a pos­si­ble er­ror, please email pub­liced@thes­tar.ca, tele­phone: 416-869-4949

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