Prime Minister Trudeau,
Just over 10 years ago, before you decided to represent the people of this country, you stood in front of our class at McGill talking about how, from a global perspective, children are the voices of our future. After, in the small classroom in the Education building, we continued the discussion. As an educator, you inspired me. As a human, you inspired me.
I write to you as a mother, Canadian and educator. An injustice has been served towards my son. I want to teach him the importance of having your voice heard and show him the value of being a citizen of this great country. As his parent, it is my responsibility to do this.
We welcomed our first child into the world on October 30th, 2014. He arrived the day after his due date, after a healthy ‘textbook’ pregnancy. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen complications during labour, he suffered a traumatic birth, irreparably damaging his brain. Days later, our newly enlarged hearts broken, we were told we would have to say goodbye to our beautiful boy, that we would have to make a decision no parent ever wants to have to make. We spent 5 days engulfed in cuddles, kisses and imparted wisdom. On November 3rd, we stood together as a family, as strong as the oak tree towering above us. We gave our son permission. We told him it was ok. Soothed by the comfort of his mother’s heartbeat, and his father’s embrace, he left his perfect little body.
A few days after the death of our son, amidst the very raw grief we were enduring, we knew we had to register his birth. We had to. We wanted, needed, the acknowledgment of his presence. We did it for him. We sat together, as new parents, answering questions with the pride that accompanied our new roles. His name that we had the honour of bestowing upon him, officially registered alongside his fellow Canadians. Owen Benjamin.
Shortly after, we received a letter in the mail. A warning that we would not be receiving a birth certificate, but instead a combined birth/death certificate. I collapsed. My heart wept. A callous, cold decision with no justifiable rationale. A letter, a decision, with the intention to belittle my son’s life. A certificate that someone decided would forever, officially, define my son’s existence as a Canadian. I wondered at what point it was decided a life mattered in this country, the duration of time someone needed to live. The injustice of this illusive timeframe causing further heartache.
Owen lived for 5 beautiful days in Vancouver. He lived, he breathed, in our arms. He felt the raindrops on his head as he took his last breaths resting on my chest. His impact, his lessons, and his spirit live on in our hearts and through the lives he has touched. He is an important member of our family.
He was born, he lived, he died. His life and value as a citizen of this country deserve recognition. An honour he is no less worthy of. Value – greatness – is not measured in time.
While we can no longer hear his voice, it still deserves to be heard. As his mother, I am helping him.
As a father, and leader of this country, I ask that you contemplate the worth, the validity, of a life and revisit the legislation surrounding this. I ask that you recognize Owen’s birth, his life, as separate to his death. He is more than bureaucracy. He is more than a policy derived in a boardroom by individuals who have no idea how much two separate documents matter more than one. His life matters. He matters.
Owen Benjamin Edmondson, born October 30th 2014.
Mother, Canadian, Teacher