Hon. J. A. MacLean (Malpeque):
Mr. Speaker, with the indulgence of the House it is my intention to take a few moments to express my point of view on this very important matter. I do so not with the expectation that anything I say will change one iota the view of any other member. The length of this debate alone has indicated the importance that members attach to it. After all, there is a very heavy responsibility on all of us to try to come up with
June 15, 1976
what is the most logical and sound decision on this legislation. I feel, too, that I have a responsibility to the people I represent; they should know not only how I vote on a matter such as this, but why I do so.
I say at once that the sincerity of no member can be questioned, regardless how he votes on this bill or what his views may be. This is a subject on which all members of the House have done a great deal of soul searching. We have, in a sense, held in the balance at the present time the lives of certain people, not only those on death row but those of our citizens who may commit murder in the future. As far as those on death row at the moment are concerned, I think there might be justification for making them exempt from the provisions of this bill. That fact might sway some members from voting as they otherwise might do.
I want to say at once, Mr. Speaker, that I am going to vote against this bill. We are, of course, concerned, regardless which side of the argument we are on, with the sanctity of human life. I think that our differences stem not from that but from the way we interpret it. The leader of the New Democratic Party who spoke a few moments ago I think debased the language by equating capital punishment with murder. I think that the two things are entirely different. The end result is the same in that a life is terminated, but under entirely different circumstances.
Murder results when someone, who may be the best citizen possible, who walks uprightly in the eyes of his fellow citizens and in the eyes of God, has his life taken away by another person under conditions over which he has no direct control. No person in this country need ever be hanged, regardless what the law provides; all he need do is not murder anybody. Our law takes every precaution to see that no one in this country is ever unjustly accused or convicted, but after the due process of law is carried out I find it difficult to understand why people cannot bring themselves to approve of capital punishment because they claim to have a reverence for life. Yet large numbers of those same people in many cases have approved abortion on demand. To me that is a much worse act on the part of society. In the one case you are taking the life of an individual who has had his chance and who could have lived his life in a way that society would approve rather than have to condemn. On the other hand, you are taking a life which has never had a chance, a life entirely before the individual. I find this a contradictory kind of thinking.
Much has been said as to whether capital punishment or the lack of it is a deterrent to crime. I think it is not an immediate deterrent either way. A potential murderer does not suddenly change his mind at that very instant and commit a murder. Therefore, even if we can devise a law that is a real deterrent it will have little or no deterrent effect on the hardened criminal or on the person who is so callous toward the right of other people to life that he does not hesitate to take someone's life if that is convenient. Any deterrent effect will not become evident for a generation at least, because the important point in life when our character's are formulated is when we are very young. I believe that as a twig is bent, so is the tree inclined. I get a little tired of people trying to reform hardened criminals. Once they have become hardened and have been through
the legal process and are in a penitentiary for years, in some cases, then in most cases it is already far too late.
What society has to do is impress on the people in the days of their youth and their childhood that there are certain things society will not allow and will not tolerate. It is our belief as civilized people that each one of us has the inalienable right to life, and if someone takes it upon himself to take away that right unjustly society will not accept that kind of behaviour. It is abhorrent to society. We must impress upon all our people that there are certain things which are just not tolerable by society, and one of them is cold-blooded, planned and deliberate murder. This is something society will not accept. Therefore, to make society's attitude with regard to that kind of behaviour abundantly clear society should in my judgment decide that anyone who plans in cold blood to take someone else's life should forfeit his own.
In addition there are other categories of behaviour which deserve and warrant capital punishment. Treason under certain circumstances is one. We should not eliminate the possibility of capital punishment for treason. Mass killing, such as putting bombs on aircraft in order to collect the insurance on someone, or for some other equally abhorrent reason, is such callous and outrageous behaviours that anyone who contemplates that kind of conduct should know in advance that if he carries it out he will pay the supreme penalty of capital punishment.
Those are some of the reasons I feel capital punishment should not be completely eliminated. I am not entirely satisfied with the interim law, the life of which is five years and which will not expire for another year and a half, but I think it is better law than the law represented in this bill. Therefore, I will vote against this bill.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: CRIMINAL CODE