Mr. H. E. WILTON (Hamilton West):
Mr. Speaker, I was rather surprised to note the apparent indifference of many hon. members of this house to this very important bill introduced by the hon. member for Wellington North (Mr. Blair), as evidenced by the lack of attention on the part of many hon. members on his own side of the chamber.
In rising to support this bill I do so in the belief that I am supporting a move forward which is in keeping with modern intelligence. Divine law and the law of the land say a life for a life. I am not in favour of eliminating capital punishment, but if we must put human beings to death, let us do it in a decent and humane manner. In the majority of municipalities, particularly the larger centres, a lethal chamber is provided for the killing of dogs, cats and other animals. This method of putting animals to death has been adopted because it is humane, but in the same centres when the law says that the life of a human being must be taken, he is hanged by the neck until he is dead. " Until he is dead " means from fourteen to eighteen minutes. If I should undertake to dispose of a dog by hanging, I have no doubt if I were discovered the humane society would have me in court charged with cruelty to an animal and I would be either fined or imprisoned. We are not allowed to
put a dog to death by hanging, but we are allowed to put a human being to death by this cruel, barbarous and antiquated method.
When a sentence of death is pronounced on a human being, the court does not stipulate that the sentence shall be carried out " with torture." The sentence is that at a certain time the prisoner shall be taken to a certain place and hanged by the neck until he is dead. This bill suggests a lethal chamber which would provide a painless death. If the human being to be placed in the chamber was not aware of what was being done, he would never know that his life was being taken. The hon. member for Wellington North referred to one case where a hanging resulted in the complete separation of the head from the body. Such a thing is most gruesome to think of and is a disgrace to our modern civilization. Even the head hunters of Borneo would have done a neater job than that. If a painless death can be provided by a lethal chamber, why have all this unnecessary torture? When a man commits a murder, is found guilty and is sentenced to death, even though he is the most hardened criminal his life should not be taken in such a way as to add additional torture to his sentence.
I can speak with some authority on this question, because I was once placed in the unfortunate position, not of being hanged, but of having to witness a hanging. It was fourteen minutes after the trap was dropped before the man was pronounced dead. There are cases on record where from eighteen to twenty minutes have elapsed. The only opposition to the proposed change from an antiquated system of putting condemned criminals to death to one more in keeping with our present civilization is that the torturous system acts as a deterrent to the commission of crimes punishable by death. I do not agree with that. I think the thing that makes a man hesitate to commit a murder is the fact that he will lose his life. I do not think the method by which the life will be taken is in itself a deterrent. In any event, we as a civilized modern people should get away from this antiquated method of taking life.
As has been pointed out, the lethal chamber is bloodless and painless and in keeping with modem civilization. In conformity with- the laws of our land and of the divine order, we must continue to take life, but let us do it in a manner that will not besmirch the good name of Canadians and of Canadian authority. Let us do it like really humane people in this modern age should do things. Let us at least discontinue a system under
which we execute human beings by a method that our laws will not permit us to use in taking the life of a dog o.r a cat.
I congratulate the hon. member for Wellington North upon having brought this bill forward. It is a step in the right direction, and it deals w'ith a subject that should be treated more seriously than some members appear to be treating it. I cannot believe that the members of this house will hesitate to adopt the bill.
Topic: CRIMINAL CODE
Subtopic: PROPOSED ABOLITION OP HANGING AS DEATH PENALTY