October 22, 1973

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

CRIMINAL CODE


The House resumed from Friday, October 19, consideration of the motion of Mr. Allmand that Bill C-2, to amend the Criminal Code, be read the third time and do pass.


PC

John Angus MacLean (Progressive Conservative Party Deputy House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. J. A. MacLean (Malpeque):

Mr. Speaker, I rise to take part in this debate not with the contemplation of any particular pleasure in discussing the question of suitable punishment for those who commit murder but because I think it is a subject that parliament should approach with as great objectivity as it can command on this subject which is bound to be an emotional one.

At the commencement of my remarks I should like to express my congratulations to the hon. member for Louis-Hebert (Mrs. Morin) on the very excellent speech she made last Friday.

I feel I have a special responsibility to take part in this debate because it so happens that of the four members of parliament from the small province of Prince Edward Island I seem to be the only one who is, in the popular jargon, a retentionist. I think a great many people in our province, probably the majority, feel as I do on this important subject. Whether they are in the majority or are a minority is, of course, only of secondary importance, but I believe that every point of view should find its expression in the House in this important debate.

The basic question that I think we have to ask ourselves is: What are the ethics, the mores, of our society in regard to murder? After all, any legislation that we pass can only be good and effective legislation if it expresses and generally reflects the most widely accepted wishes of the people whom we represent.

I think we should be clear in our minds concerning the purpose of the bill before us. The purpose is not to abolish capital punishment but to reduce the category of murder for which capital punishment is the penalty. In a nutshell, the bill before us reduces that category from all those who commit premeditated murder to those who commit the murder of police officers and penitentiary guards. So we are merely reducing the category of murder for which capital punishment is the penalty. We are not discussing under this bill the method of capital punishment to be

used. I think that parliament should consider that aspect at an early date. Whether or not this bill passes it is something we should consider because in any event capital punishment will not be eliminated under our law. So long as capital punishment is not eliminated I think we should carefully consider the method to be used in carrying out that sentence.

I believe we should base our consideration of the question on whether or not as a society we believe in the sanctity of human life. We must ask ourselves whether it is wise and reasonable to do so. It is certainly not necessary from a purely philosophical point of view because many societies in the past have not believed in the sanctity of human life. Individual societies in the past, which have continued for perhaps thousands of years, have thought it quite all right to kill other humans for food. I refer to the practice of cannibalism. Other societies have thought it right to kill in order to occupy or take over the land of other humans, to kill for ceremonial purposes or merely to kill in order to acquire goods as the cheapest or most efficient way of increasing one's standard of living, if you like.

Until recent times at least it has been recognized in many societies as being ethically right under certain circumstances to kill in order to acquire power or in order to take over the position previously held by the victim.

Through a painfully slow process we as a society have come to the conclusion at least partially that this previous way of looking at the lives of other humans is not viable in a highly civilized community and that in the long run it is perhaps self-defeating because sooner or later in the general scheme of things, if we give ourselves the privilege of killing humans, we ourselves are likely to become the victims of that practice. So we have come to the conclusion that we should look upon human life as something to be protected at all costs.

This view is evident in many other phases of our way of life. We keep alive people, who, because of accidents or disease, are from a medical point of view merely vegetables. We believe that we have an obligation to provide at great expense services for that purpose. I think that is correct if we say that we believe in the sanctity of human life. There is the argument that under no circumstances has the state the right even in the name of society, to practice such a barbarous thing as the carrying out of capital punishment.

At one time I thought it was very inconsistent that many people, though not all, should believe, on the one hand, in the elimination of capital punishment and, on the other hand, that abortion on demand is reasonable and a right women should have. I have always looked on that as being a paradox, an inconsistency. I consider the life of an unborn child is just as important, or perhaps more so because it is not in a position to defend itself, as the life of

October 22, 1973

Capital Punishment

anyone else. While I have always considered that to represent inconsistency on the part of many people, on thinking about it further it would seem that perhaps it is not inconsistency. On both counts it would seem that such people do not believe in the sanctity of human life.

I am a retentionist because I do believe in the sanctity of human life. Therefore it is my view that when an individual decides to take the life of another human, an act that is abhorrent to our view of the sanctity of human life, the penalty for such an act should be capital punishment not as punishment or as revenge but chiefly as an indication of the abhorrence in which society holds such a person. At the moment I am talking about premeditated murder in which a person has a plan to wipe out someone else. I am not talking about crimes of passion or homicide which could be construed as manslaughter or anything of that sort.

I would never want anyone, of course, no matter how gruesome the crime, to be subject to capital punishment on the basis of circumstantial evidence. If there is a shred of doubt, the accused person should be given the benefit of that doubt. I agree with that principle. However, as an ultimate sanction by society in respect of those who would ignore the view of our society, which I believe holds that human life is sacred, there should be no doubt in anyone's mind concerning the seriousness with which society views such crimes.

There is the argument, of course, that in the case where capital punishment is in force there is always the danger that an innocent person may be convicted and executed. I consider the chance of that happening as being very remote, especially in circumstances where it should be the recognized practice, as I think it is, that no one should be convicted and suffer capital punishment on the basis of circumstantial evidence. We should ask ourselves what the potential risk of this happening to an individual is. I contend that any Canadian citizen-you and I included- stands a far greater chance of being murdered than of being executed as a murderer who is in fact innocent. The relative chances are infinitesimal. If our purpose is to protect society, we should remember that the penalty should be such that no one can construe society's attitude as being in the least bit soft or as condoning in the slightest degree the taking of human life illegally by someone who plans it for his convenience or advancement.

It is a fact that when murders are committed the victims, generally speaking, have no means whatsoever of preventing it from happening. They are victims in the sense that they have no means of protecting themselves in advance or of taking precautions against it happening so as to make certain that they will not become murder victims. On the other hand, we can protect ourselves from the gallows. Any individual who takes the view that it is a terrible thing to inflict capital punishment on a Canadian citizen, regardless of what he has done, should remember that no one will ever be executed for murder or suffer any other punishment for murder, including imprisonment, if he chooses not to because all the citizen has to do to avoid that danger is not to murder anybody. Surely that is not too great a demand to make on the ordinary Canadian citizen.

That sums up my views in a very rough and ready way. We should consider this matter against the much broader background of what the mores of our society are at the present time. I fear that, with the rapid urbanization that has taken place in recent years all over the world, with the urban sprawl where communities are wiped out, most of our large cities are only dormitory areas where people sleep during the night and carry on their activities during the day in an entirely different environment. Among these people the sense of community has disappeared, to the detriment of our society. As a result of the destruction of small communities where people were each other's neighbours in every sense of the word, we are gradually becoming a society of Levites who pass by on the other side of the many problems that face us, especially in the large urban societies. This is one of the reasons that many people, especially the young, are being "turned off" by our society, are being frustrated by it, are being pushed into ways of living that can only be detrimental to them, to us and to society as a whole in the long run.

I want to say one more thing before concluding. I make no apology for the stand I take. I am sick and tired of being preached at by people who hold the opposite view and who say I am some sort of mossback and that I should "get with it" and advance. We are bound to advance by the fact that time moves on-we cannot do anything about that-but that does not guarantee the improvement and progress of every generation and of society as a whole. I imagine, although there is no way of knowing, that people supporting the policies that brought about tbe fall of the Roman Empire said to the critics of the day, "get with it, we want progress". I do not want progress, nor do I want to accelerate it, if that so-called progress is not real progress but only accelerates the decline in our standard of life and the quality of our society.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
NONE

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

No affiliation

Mr. Speaker:

Is the House ready for the question?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Question.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
LIB

Maurice Dupras

Liberal

Mr. Maurice Dupras (Labelle):

Mr. Speaker, I never expected that I would rise so early in the day to take part in the debate. I do not mean to say that the debate has just started. I know it has lasted a long time. I have been here long enough to know that this subject was debated for quite a few days in 1966 and 1967, and it is being debated again in 1973.

Mr. Speaker, I participate in this debate with the conviction that I have neither to apologize nor explain the position that I intend to take when voting. I also take part in the debate to outline my viewpoint and I do not propose to act like those who have spoken Friday, for instance, to indulge in rhetoric and judge the morals of my colleagues. Everyone is entitled to his convictions in the course of this debate on a subject which is of prime importance for the people of Canada.

When the point is to speak about the freedom of Canadian citizens, of those living on the fringe of society, we must not forget about the freedom of victims, of my colleagues, of mine as well as of the security of all Canadians. Since 1967, the Canadians that I have consulted, that I meet, do not stop indicating to me all their apprehension

October 22, 1973

and dismay when seeing what little respect some citizens show for the people. Different opinions are held as indicated by the speeches which have been delivered; we have noted at times that this debate was fairly emotional.

Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to apologize for holding my opinions nor will I try to understand, for example, those who are resorting to all kinds of academic exercises to try to convince their colleagues and themselves that society would truly be better protected if the death penalty were abolished.

During this debate, Mr. Speaker, we have referred to Gallup polls and surveys made by many of my colleagues. As for myself, I have asked the advice of my constituents and I intend to continue that kind of consultation or survey. Some hon. members have acted likewise, but having obtained the answer of the population, they turn down their views, they rise in the House to state that they do not wish to become prisoners of public opinion. As for the survey carried out by my colleagues as well as that of October 30, 1972, we are all closely bound by them and we must take them into account.

If I decided to waive aside the results, I should be forbidden to carry out other surveys. I do not want to see the intelligence of Canadian people being abused, but we should know how to make surveys. We ask for public opinion on certain issues, but then the results are spurned when the people are clearly told: You have let me know what you thought about such problem, but I do not share your opinion and I will not consider your answers.

Mr. Speaker, I have no difficulty in believing in the result of the survey because, like 66 per cent of my constituents, I want the death penalty to be maintained. During the last few weeks, we have heard all the reasons that could be given for maintaining or abolishing capital punishment. Of course, Mr. Speaker, it would be much easier for someone on this side of the House to get up and say that he too supports the great majority of cabinet members who are in favour of abolition.

The position which I have chosen is much more difficult; very few have chosen it. Until now, very few have taken this position on third reading. I believe that what I am doing is right because I have read about this subject for months, Mr. Speaker. Some may say that people with a legal background are better qualified to give an opinion or become experts in this matter, but I do not think so. To arrive at a fair conclusion, you should first of all have a sufficient knowledge of life. You must also have studied the subject and consulted experts in order to be able to judge the situation. I sometimes wonder if certain lawyers who fervently support the abolition of the death penalty lack faith in their own talent. Do they have doubts about the quality of the services which they can render to their clients when they have to defend them and save them from the death penalty?

Mr. Speaker, during this debate, we have talked about life and about clemency and we have quoted texts from the Bible. I have no intention of doing this. As you know, the Bible contains as many texts in favour of maintaining the death penalty as texts against it. I would like to talk about life, to which each one of us is entitled and which is jeopardized by these people who live outside society and threaten the citizens. How many times have we been

Capital Punishment

seeing people who, while serving their sentence, were paroled and perpetrated a second crime, even more abominable than the first one. While concern is shown here about the criminal there does not seem to be enough interest taken in the poor victims. Mr. Speaker, when we think about these atrocities from which some elderly, some women and some children have suffered, we can say that to anyone who tries to imagine these pains it becomes almost physically intolerable to imagine to what extent these victims had to suffer through the hands of these criminals.

For all these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I am unable to support the bill under consideration. I will have to vote against it. I would not want to give the impression, Mr. Speaker, that I am definitely and straightly in favour of the maintenance of capital punishment.

I am also in favour of abolition of this type of punishment, but I do not believe that our society is ready in this year of 1973 to indulge in such a luxury.

We should consider, Mr. Speaker, the impact of the abolition of capital punishment. Let us consider, as an example, some possibilities. A provincial cabinet minister, the Hon. Pierre Laporte, was assassinated in a cowardly manner almost three years ago, and it is not impossible, in the event of the accession to power of the political party advocating the separation of the province of Quebec from the rest of Canada, that we would witness the release of the authors of this atrocious crime.

It is due to a weakness in the present act that a criminal may be released. Let us seriously think of the consequences that could derive in the province of Quebec if all those who had anything to do with the kidnapping and the horrible assassination of Pierre Laporte were released following the Parti Quebecois' victory.

For all these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I am unable to support the bill before us. Therefore, I shall vote against it.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
LIB

Eymard G. Corbin

Liberal

Mr. Eymard Corbin (Madawaska-Victoria):

Mr. Speaker, I was not long in coming to the House this morning, because I was definitely intent on making known my position in respect of this bill before it is read the third time.

I can state positively and without hesitation that I am as I have always been against capital punishment. If I am, Mr. Speaker, it is because I am deeply convinced as a Christian that demanding an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth serves no purpose and, I don't know how it is said in the Bible, I am not one of those who cry vengeance for a criminal act of this nature.

I have heard several hon. members using highly con-demnable cases of murder as examples and demanding in an almost sanguinary voice that the murderers be in turn exterminated, hanged, in order to get rid of them once and for all instead of "freezing" them for many long years in our penal institutions.

I was still quite young when a person to whom I was very close was the victim of a murderer. That person was my uncle and godfather, the chief of police of a small town. The story was in every Canadian and American

7074

October 22, 1973

Capital Punishment

newspaper because at that time it was not very often that policemen were killed in the course of their duties.

It is not for me to discuss the circumstances of the crime. The murderer was committed to a psychiatric hospital; he has been there ever since and I do not think he will ever get out. The victim's close relatives are still alive. His children are active in their professions in the locality. The murderer's parents and children are also still alive. All of us who were close to the victim's family have the greatest sympathy for them and we try to have toward the author of the crime no other feelings than those inspired by Christian charity.

I am making this statement without ill feelings and when you are close to such facts as I have been as a journalist during the inquiry and subsequent judgment I can confess that I have in my heart not a feeling of vengeance but rather a feeling of deep compassion.

I think that, first and foremost, society should admit that we are encouraging circumstances which lead to murder, crime and violence. As most hon. members I watch television on weekends. I not only watch baseball, hockey and football but also the kind of programs intended for our children and I am astounded by the number of violent actions shown on the screen. There was a time when parents could, up to a certain point, control the watching of violent acts in the movie theaters but today television is invading the privacy of Canadian families and unless you simply throw the television set through the window it is absolutely impossible to control what our children are watching.

And yet violence does exist. Violence is shown by a state corporation, by private broadcasting corporations, radio and magazines which are giving detailed reports of heinous crimes and our children are exposed to all those facts.

Of course, in a free society and a democracy our children should be appraised of those facts but it is time that the Canadian legislatures, both the Parliament of Canada and the provincial assemblies, should deal with violence aimed at Canadian families, at innocent children who quite often are discovering life under such circumstances. This is no way of presenting reality, however heinous it may be. I believe that society must above all examine its own conscience and not take the bloodthirsty attitude of seeking vengeance against those that committed the crime.

These are, Mr. Speaker, some ideas which I wanted to put forward during this debate. As I have said before, I am an abolitionist, by deep Christian conviction. And I always remember, in difficult circumstances, whether in my dealings with the press, in political debates, or in personal relationships with persons with whom I work or with members of my immediate family, that there is one thing one must never forget, Mr. Speaker, and that is to forgive others as we want them to forgive us.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
NONE

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

No affiliation

Mr. Speaker:

Is the House ready for the question?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Question.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
NONE

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

No affiliation

Mr. Speaker:

All those in favour of the motion please say yea.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Yea.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
NONE

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

No affiliation

Mr. Speaker:

All those opposed please say nay.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Nay.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
NONE

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

No affiliation

Mr. Speaker:

In my opinion, the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
NONE

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

No affiliation

Mr. Speaker:

Pursuant to special order made on Friday, July 27, the recorded division on the motion for third reading of Bill C-2, an act to amend the Criminal Code, stands deferred.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
LIB

Allan Joseph MacEachen (President of the Privy Council; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MacEachen:

Mr. Speaker, I think it has been agreed that instead of proceeding with another item of business we will call it one o'clock and resume sitting at two o'clock, if this is agreeable to all parties.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
NONE

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

No affiliation

Mr. Speaker:

Before I inquire whether this is the desire of the House perhaps I should inquire what would be the disposition of the House with relation to the special order for special hours this afternoon and again this evening. I assume hon. members would want to resume the hours of operation under the Standing Orders.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
LIB

Allan Joseph MacEachen (President of the Privy Council; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MacEachen:

That, I believe, is the desire, Mr. Speaker.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink
NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Agreed.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Sub-subtopic:   REINSTATEMENT OF LAW RELATING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT THAT EXISTED PRIOR TO DECEMBER 30, 1972
Permalink

October 22, 1973