Mr. Allan Lawrence (Northumberland-Durham):
Mr. Speaker, this has been a long, drawn-out debate. The issues are well known to the House, to the media and across the country, and I am afraid that as far as members of this parliament are concerned convictions have hardened and people have already made up their minds.
The reason I am boring the House today with a short contribution to this debate is simply that I have not spoken on the matter yet in this chamber. Frankly, I feel somewhat uncomfortable for that reason since, as usual, my own views and experiences do not parallel those of anyone else in the House. I feel I have a duty to indicate those views and experiences in the course of this debate, especially so that my constituents may be able to judge them. As a matter of fact, I think we all have a duty and a responsibility as elected representatives to voice the opinions, desires and needs of our own constituents not only on this issue but on other issues that come before us. I ask you rhetorically, if I may, Mr. Speaker: Why are we all here if it is not to represent the views of our constituents? I ask a further question: Is there anybody here who believes he has been elected to come here because, in the opinion of his constituents, he knows better than they what is good for them?
I think there can be no doubt whatever respecting the feelings and opinions of by far the larger number of people in this country on the general issue of capital punishment. A great number of public opinion polls have been taken on the subject, some of them scientific, others unscientific. I have yet to see one of them which indicated there was a majority of opinion in favour of the abolition of capital punishment in this country. I have seen a great number of these polls and the number of citizens expressing a desire to retain capital punishment for the crime of wanton, premeditated murder ranges from a low of 60 per cent to a high of more than 90 per cent. I believe that especially on an emotional issue such as this the opinions, the sensibilities, the conscience of the average citizen are every bit as reliable as those of any member of parliament, and that we
in this House have a responsibility to conform to the clearly expressed wishes of those who elected us.
Because of the intervention of the recess may I take a moment to remind hon. members of what we are discussing. I point out to hon. members that prior to the Criminal Code 1967 Amendment Act a planned and deliberate capital murder in this country was punishable by death, but since 1967 the killing of police officers and prison authorities acting in the course of their duties have been the only murder offences punishable by death under the law. We have gone through the period of the so-called five-year moratorium.
Subtopic: CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic: REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972