May 23, 1961 (24th Parliament, 4th Session)


William Earl Rowe

Progressive Conservative

Hon. W. Earl Rowe (Dufferin-Simcoe):

Mr. Speaker, an issue that concerns the sanctity of human life affects the emotions of everyone in the House of Commons. I can quite understand the zeal of the hon. member for York-Scarborough (Mr. McGee) and the support he has had from the hon. member from Parkdale (Mr. Maloney) and others on this rather moral issue. It is an issue that far transcends party lines. I can appreciate the attitude of those who feel keenly about it. I think it is a matter of deduction to arrive at what is actually meant by the sanctity of human life.
I believe I have a very kindly heart. I have terrific sympathy for anyone who even is obliged to go to jail for the commission of a crime, whether it is stealing a loaf of bread for his family, exceeding the speed limit with his car, or something else. However, while I am not a lawyer, I notice that there are degrees of penalties. A man is fined so much for going through a red light. He is fined much

more if he kills a child running out on the road on the way from school. He is fined much more and he loses his licence if he is convicted of manslaughter or if, through impaired driving, he causes an accident in which a whole family is killed. I am wondering whether we are not being carried away with our sentimentality and our heartfelt sympathy for the man who has a background that prompts criminality.
I am more concerned, Mr. Speaker, about the death of one lovely little child and her innocent mother than I am about the death of all the criminals who have been hanged on all the gallows to date. Do not let us get "chicken". Do not let us get soft. It is not a matter of revenge. Good men-and there are many that I know personally-saw good comrades die in battle for the great principles of liberty and freedom. Many thousands of good men have died for fundamental principles. A few criminals have been hanged for dastardly crimes against society. We are not here to protect criminals from the gallows. We are here to protect society in general. In the twilight of my career in politics I would shudder if I thought I had cast a vote for the total abolition of the death penalty if it meant that one of my grandchildren or one of yours, Mr. Speaker, or one of the grandchildren or daughters of my many other friends in the house were killed because some fellow said, "I will only get a light penalty anyway".
One of the hon. members who has spoken said that this legislation is only a beginning and that it will develop to the point of total abolition which is the objective of some sincere hon. members in this house. Surely we should stop, look and listen. If a $1,000 fine is a penalty to a man who cannot find the $1,000, five years in the penitentiary is a greater penalty. But if a judge says, "Because of the crime that you have committed, you will be taken to the place of execution and you will hang by the neck until you are dead", surely that is a deterrent. I once heard that sentence pronounced on a man whom I knew and I felt the cold chills go up and down my back. No man can tell me that sentence is not a greater deterrent than is one pronounced by a judge who says that the man will go to jail for the balance of his life, knowing that the government might be soft enough to let him out in about 20 years.

Full View