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


Louis Fortin

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Louis Fortin (Montmagny-L'Islet):

Mr. Speaker, in my preliminary remarks, I intended to show to what extent the two theories confronting each other are defenda-ble. And I think we had this evening a perfect illustration of what I was going to say as felt by all hon. members who
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listened to the hon. member for Park-dale (Mr. Maloney), speaking with all the conviction he has acquired in his brief but fruitful career at the bar. Indeed the death penalty in its present form is practically a crime.
He expounded his philosophy in a composed and passionless way, and we agreed with him.
On the other hand, the case for maintaining capital punishment is also defendable. In fact, I think that what the hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe (Mr. Rowe), just told us, is as good an illustration of the reasons for maintaining capital punishment. Both theories were well defended, first by the hon. member for Parkdale, that brilliant young criminal lawyer who, during his career, has frequently been in touch with people who were under indictment for murder, and then by the hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe who had the advantage of a long experience of men and things and who was basing his judgment on that very experience, which is so valuable.
All that, Mr. Speaker, goes to show that when it is a question of forming an opinion for or against the abolition of capital punishment, the responsibility resting on members' shoulders is extremely heavy. And that is precisely why, last year, I refrained from taking part in the debate, when the bill of the hon. member for York-Scarborough (Mr. McGee) was introduced.
At that time, I felt a bit like the man in the street who, one day, believes that maintaining capital punishment is essential for the protection of society and the next, after hearing a lecture or the narration of some moving occurrence, prefers complete abolition. As I said, I did not take part in this debate because I wanted to study the question thoroughly, with an open mind, without passion, as one should when considering such a complex matter which may entail so very serious consequences. 1 wanted to take some advice and consult even the man in the street on the way he felt with regard to this matter.
Today, I would still not be able to determine which is my honest opinion if I were asked to decide for or against the abolition of capital punishment.
I believe that the Minister of Justice (Mr. Fulton) also thought that public opinion was not sufficiently enlightened, nor clear enough to be faced with legislation tending completely to abolish the death penalty. Now a middle way has been found thanks to which nobody, I think, may be unfairly convicted of capital murder entailing capital

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punishment, whereas to this day anyone who had killed has been a murderer, there being no alternative even if, deep down in his conscience, the individual having committed- and I even hesitate to say the word-a murder for some motive which submitted to a jury, would have been valueless, was doomed to hang.
In other words, if you had killed, if you had committed a murder and were unable through reliable witnesses or by your own means to justify such action on some ground or other, you were heading for the gallows. And that is precisely where the injustice was. Today, a distinction has been made between capital murder and non-capital murder.
I might perhaps immediately deal with the suggestion made a few moments ago by the hon. member for Berthier-Maskinonge-Dela-naudiere (Mr. Paul), who proposed that anybody who killed be accused of qualified murder. I rather believe that we should do the opposite. In the vast majority of cases, the indicted should be accused of non-capital murder, because it is extremely painful to bring an individual before the courts and prove his intention, or prove that his crime was premeditated.

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