Mr. Howard Johnston (Okanagan-Kootenay):
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the generosity of the hon. member opposite, who has left me all of two minutes for what may well be the last speech I will have a chance to give in this chamber, which I will be leaving.
It was the remarks of my colleague, the hon. member for Okanagan-Boundary (Mr. Whittaker), which moved me to speak. He will be returned to this House, and he needs no assistance from me in the coming election campaign on this subject, but being a member of generous heart I am prepared to offer him a little assistance because I know he was serious when he spoke in favour of and demanded a free vote in parliament. That means freeing members from party discipline and freeing them to vote according to their conscience on the issue at hand.
I also listened to the remarks of the hon. member for Pembina (Mr. Elzinga), who asked how a member such as myself could pit my conscience against public opinion on the cause to which he and the hon. member for Okanagan-Boundary referred. It is quite easy, because there is another test of the common sense of the public and that, of course, is in the decisions of juries in jury trials. I keep track of these. A jury at Kamloops, British Columbia, reduced the charge against the murderer of Patrick Charles Danchuk. The charge was reduced to manslaughter, and the accused was sentenced to four years. That is a test of the common sense of the public.
March 2, 1979
It is a truer test than the amateurish polls which are taken from time to time, because when 12 good people and true get together they express the public opinion. I suspect, had we returned to capital punishment, the jury in that case would have acquitted, as the jury would have acquitted in the case of Maxwell, who was murdered in Kelowna. There was a reduced charge also, through plea bargaining, of the murderer of Sadie Jones Edward at Sicamous, British Columbia. One can follow these cases. That is the true test.
I hope this parliament will not ever return this nation to capital punishment. I admired the courage of one Lowell Green for suggesting in the Ottawa Journal that in the future, if there are to be executions, they be televised publicly. I see no reason why they should not. We have allowed the monster of television into this chamber, and I do not know how we can
keep it out of anything else it might be interested in getting into, including the courts. If this chamber, the highest court of the land, is televised, then every other court of the land should be televised so that the public can watch the process of justice, particularly in cases of murder. Then I think we would have justification for the vote which was taken in this House.
One notes, of course, that the murder rate dropped after the decision to abolish capital punishment. I believe we saved some lives, and not just those of murderers.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: CRIMINAL CODE