Mr. N. L. Spencer (Essex West):
of those who did not have the opportunity of participating in the previous debates on the subject matter of this bill, and as one who is not an abolitionist and yet proposes to support this bill, I feel I should clarify my position. I will be brief because I do not want to belabour the arguments which have been previously advanced.
I listened with intense interest to the statement of the Minister of Justice (Mr. Fulton) when he introduced the bill. I congratulate him upon the objective and lucid manner in which he dealt with this delicate and highly controversial subject of capital punishment. This legislation has been referred to by previous speakers as a first step or an advance forward. If by those expressions they had in mind the ultimate abolition of capital punishment as the penalty for murder, I feel they are unrealistic and overly optimistic. I believe that the overwhelming majority of the people of this country are now, and will remain, opposed to any such result. I hope the enactment of this legislation will not be construed as a weakening of opposition or a manifestation of a changing public opinion.
The salient feature of this bill, in my opinion, is the retention of capital punishment. It is retained as the penalty for deliberate and premeditated murder. The deterrent effect of this prescribed punishment for such crimes remains unfettered. That this punishment is the greatest deterrent, I believe, admits of no denial. Attempts have been made by resort to statistics to establish otherwise. As has been said so properly by the Minister of Justice, statistics have no convincing value. There are no statistics available of murders not committed or deterred by the severity and certainty of the death penalty. To argue that life imprisonment is an equal deterrent presupposes that the penalties of death and life imprisonment are of equal severity. This is an argument I cannot accept. I believe we do not need to do more than ask ourselves-God forbid that we should ever be placed in such a position-which penalty we would prefer.
If, as I believe, the death penalty is the more severe penalty, it must follow that it is the greater deterrent. To argue otherwise goes counter to all our beliefs over the years
and to actual experience. No one, I think, would attempt to argue that the mandatory imprisonment penalty for drunk driving has not been a greater deterrent than the lesser penalty of a fine.
This bill also provides the penalty of life imprisonment in certain circumstances. What are the circumstances? There must be an absence of deliberation or planning. It is a killing that is not deliberate in the sense of being within the contemplation of the accused. It is the type of murder which would not be prevented or deterred by the severity of the penalty. It is perpetrated without regard to the consequences and, really, without any conscious appreciation of culpability. It is the type of murder for which pleas of clemency are made and frequently granted.
This kind of murder, in this bill called "non-capital murder", warrants a lesser penalty. There is no erosion of the deterrent effect of the death penalty, and for that reason and that reason alone, I approve of the substitution of the penalty of life imprisonment for such cases. I am, therefore, in good conscience and without compromising my convictions, able to support this bill.