Mr. H. F. Jones (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs):
At the close of this great debate which has excited the interest and the emotions of Canadians, as have similar debates in other countries on this subject, I think it is fitting to pay tribute to all those inside and outside of this house who have played a part in reaching the position that we are in today in relation to a possible solution of this problem through the medium of this bill. I think that the abolitionists, and those who have favoured keeping the Criminal Code as it is, will greet this bill with considerable relief.
The bill represents, in my view, a great step forward. It removes the death penalty for those murders where premeditation is not a factor. This is a great advance. It retains the death penalty for those persons who have decided themselves that someone else's life shall be forfeited. I feel this has been one of the factors in the arguments both inside and outside of the house for retaining the provisions of the code as they are at the moment. There has been a fear that those who commit planned murders, those who engage in crimes which could well result in murder, might not receive full justice if abolition were brought about.
The hon. member for Parkdale (Mr. Maloney) mentioned with favour the provision to leave clemency with the jury. In his remarks, he suggested that perhaps this verdict should not be arrived at unanimously. I have great respect for the opinions of the hon. member for Parkdale, particularly in this field. I do believe, however, although his suggestion is one that should interest the members of the house and should receive their serious and deep consideration, that the retention of the unanimity rule in so far as clemency is concerned would result in a much
more thorough examination by a jury of the question of whether or not clemency should indeed be recommended.
The jurors when they get together by themselves to decide these matters, if they are placed in a position in which the majority could decide whether or not there should be a clemency recommendation, I feel would tend not to give the serious consideration that should be given to a recommendation for clemency. The tendency might be merely to let a majority ride and not to explore all the aspects of the case which should go into such a serious recommendation. I believe there is also a clause in the bill permitting the governor in council in commuting a sentence of death to direct that the prisoner shall not be released from the imprisonment to which the sentence is commuted without the prior approval of the governor in council, and this applies to capital murder. I wonder whether consideration should not be given to including within the bill a similar provision in respect of those murders which are not capital murders. Otherwise we might have people being released from prison after paying a relatively short penalty and without that serious consideration which should be given by the highest authority to the release of a person who has committed a murder.
Those were the two thoughts I wished to place before the house. I wish to close by complimenting the minister on this step forward. I think it will meet with general approval. Indeed, from the reports that I have read and the opinions of lawyers that I have heard on this matter, I believe it is generally regarded as being a great and imaginative solution to this question which has exercised Canadians as a whole over the last four or five years.
Subtopic: REVISION OF PROVISIONS RESPECTING DEATH PENALTY