Canada fulfils to-day by carrying out our present criminal code. Now, I hold, very strongly, Mr. Speaker, that a criminal code that is based on savage impulses and keeps in view savage aims cannot be expected to produce civilized results. We shall try in vain to achieve the ends of civilization through institutions that were devised for barbaric purposes. As to the basis of our present criminal code, history does not leave us any room for doubt whatever. Primitive man had absolutely no thought of deterrence when he imposed this penalty; but as humanity developed intellectually and morally, we found it incumbent upon us to find some rational sanction for the practice of taking the lives of other people, and so we said: We will take life for life on the ground that this will deter other people from committing crimes. I do not think there is in Canada any person who would advocate the death penalty to-day on the ground of revenge, which is the basis of our criminal code. Why then, we may ask, should we continue to keep in force an institution for the purpose of revenge when we seek some other purpose for carrying it out? I believe we can find a better way of gaining our ends.
Let us move to another point in the historic argument. Civilized man, as I have said, seeking a rational sanction for the imposition of the death penalty, decided that it must be considered as a deterrent. He thought it was less inhuman to kill a man when in doing so he reasoned that he was preventing other men from repeating the crime, than it was to kill on the basis of revenge. That is our civilized interpretation of the death penalty. So, when punishment was regarded as a deterrent from crime, in the early stages of that recognition we find that the death penalty was passed on all offenders, and it was carried out publicly and made as horrible as possible. This was the proper and logical thing to do, of course, for in order that the death penalty might be a deterrent, people would have to see the thing and know that it was carried out;-the more horrible it was made to appear, the more of a deterrent it would be, provided, of course, that it had a deterrent effect at all. So we find human ingenuity was exhausted in devising cruelties to impose on those who had committed crimes. But we have to say briefly that this method has proved a failure. Society has been forced to abandon all these cruelties; society has been forced to abandon the death penalty except in the case of homicide. In an article in the American Journal of Politics, in 1893, we are told that under the old Jewish law every crime save one was punishable by
death. In England, in the eighteenth century, 160 offences were punishable by death, among those being that of stealing property. A man for stealing five shillings could legally be hanged, and very often in the early history of England people committing such crimes were hanged. Also, if a man held an opinion that was different from that of his church authorities, or different from that of the state authorities, as a heretic he was punishable by death. In the reign of Henry VIII alone, 72,000 people were hanged for crimes and offences of this character. The first relief that came to the people of Great Britain from this kind of punishment came through the colonies. That is to say, a man who had stolen five shillings had the option of going to Canada or some other colony or to be hanged, and sometimes he decided in favour of a new start in the colonies. That was the beginning of relief from this type of punishment in Great Britain.