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


Charles Benjamin Howard


Mr. Howard:

At this stage I have only a few brief and general remarks to make following those of the hon. member for Maisonneuve-Rosemont and the hon. member for Vancouver South, and they are along somewhat the same lines. As to the major principle contained in the bill, I think each member
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has undoubtedly made up his mind and perhaps did so not at the time this particular bill was under debate but during previous sessions when we discussed or debated bills presented by the hon. member for York-Scarborough.
However, while one may have come to a certain conclusion with respect to the essence of the bill itself, I still think that a sufficiently large number of points of view were expressed during second reading of this bill to require some consideration and some reflection on the part of hon. members with regard to whether or not these different ideas might be contained within detailed parts of the bill itself. I am thinking of such matters as pleadings in court, functions in court, and whether or not we should alter somewhat the definitions of what is capital murder or what is non-capital murder. These are things which perhaps require some degree of cogitation on the part of members. It is for this reason that I would support the expression of view of the hon. member for Maisonneuve-Rosemont to the extent that we have possibly a day or two in which to consider and to reflect upon all of these various ideas that have been suggested, some of them differing greatly.
I know that each member has approached this problem from the point of view of his conscience and not from the point of view of whether or not the legislation was introduced by a particular cabinet minister and the natural things that follow from supporting government bills. However, I think this conscience of members should be given an opportunity, over an extra day or two, to work a little bit more. Perhaps we may then be able to come up with suggestions in the committee of the whole which the minister said is the place in which we can in the broadest possible manner assess the feeling of the public. In committee of the whole we may be able to come up with suggestions and ideas with regard to particular methods rather than suggesting those amendments on the spur of the moment. I have one amendment particularly that I should like to propose to a subsequent clause. It is something which I would rather not introduce right on the spur of the moment, as it were. I would rather think about it for a while, talk with other members about it and get their ideas on it.
I also think there is a tendency, particularly on matters such as this one, to legislate with long intervals of time elapsing between the various changes that take place in the legislation. I think it will be some time again before parliament, in a formal way, gets down to the question of considering the statute dealing with capital punishment or capital or non-capital murder, as it is referred to in this bill; it might be another ten

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years or another 15 years. It is difficult to say when we will again get to that point of time in social thought when it is considered necessary to make some other amendments. I think we want to be as sure as we possibly can now, while we are at the task, that we are legislating in a manner which each of us really thinks is the best possible way to legislate on this particular subject.
In general I am in support of the bill and the subject matters contained therein. I have expressed these points of view on other occasions, especially when dealing with the bill introduced during the previous session by the hon. member for York-Scarborough.
I support it, not because it represents what some people have called a compromise between abolitionists and retentionists-because I do not think this is a subject matter we can approach from the point of view of compromise, especially if our conscience is involved-but because I think the bill recognizes, and certainly the reflection of the government is recognition of this fact, that capital punishment is no greater deterrent to murder than is some other form of punishment, notably, in this instance, life imprisonment.
I think this bill recognizes that capital punishment in some instances is not any greater deterrent to certain crimes being committed than is the threat of life imprisonment. I maintain that this is substantially the case with respect to those types of murder which are classified as planned and premeditated where a person plans a heinous crime. One such case that comes to mind is where an individual planted a bomb on an airplane in order to kill a member of his family and thereby collect the insurance, and in the process killed everybody else on the airplane. That was a planned, premeditated and foul type of murder.
In this and other instances where murder is planned and premeditated by an individual, I submit that the threat of capital punishment is no more a deterrent to that individual than is the threat of life imprisonment. I think what that individual is thinking about, or what he convinces himself will occur, is that he can plan and carry out a murder and use his wits in such a way that he will escape detection. He has convinced himself that he will be able to do this and will be able to escape detection, arrest and conviction by the police.
I support this bill, because it recognizes the fact that in some instances the threat of capital punishment is no more a deterrent than is the threat of life imprisonment. I submit that this is true in so far as planned and premeditated murders are concerned.

I would say, however, that the retention of capital punishment in so far as concerns certain types of planned and premeditated murders will be acceptable to those who maintain that it is a deterrent; it will be acceptable to those who think in terms of the necessity for revenge; it will be acceptable to greater or lesser degrees to people in different parts of the country, depending upon the circumstances which might exist at any particular time.
Public opinion on this particular question of the necessity for capital punishment in certain cases will rise and fall as circumstances vary in a particular locale. If there is in an area a particularly fiendish individual who commits murder and the inhabitants are incensed about the murder and the manner in which it was carried out, the feeling in that area will rise and insist upon capital punishment being the proper punishment. At some other point of time, if nothing occurs in the same community, the feeling in that regard will diminish.
Mr. Chairman, I know other hon. members wish to rise and speak on this subject because I saw them rise when the first clause of this bill was called. Therefore perhaps I should not say anything more at this particular time, because it is ten or 12 minutes to six o'clock and I know other hon. members wish to participate in this debate and express their views today and keep them connected as closely as possible with the vote that took place. On later, subsequent clauses I think we could perhaps engage in a more extended debate.

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