Mr. Alan Macnaughlon (Mount Royal):
Mr. Speaker, on February 18, 1960, at the time when the bill on capital punishment of the hon. member for York-Scarborough (Mr. McGee) was being discussed by the house, I set out in some detail, as found on page 1208 of Hansard, the reasons why I was opposed to capital punishment. I do not propose to cover those details again. However, I am still opposed to capital punishment and I base myself on three fundamental reasons or principles.
The first is that capital punishment emphasizes the punitive aspect of justice, and by the word "punitive" I mean punishment, of course. Punishment, as we all know, can be broken down into at least four elements,
punishment to deter an act from being committed, punishment to make a person suffer who has committed an act, a sort of form of vengeance or retribution, punishment in order to reform the criminal, to make him see the proper way to follow, and punishment in order to maintain the laws of the civilized state or, in other words, to protect society.
The second principle I mentioned was that it is human to err in judgment because none of us, of course is infallible. The third general principle I mentioned was that there is an ethical basis to this whole thing. It seems to me that the state cannot take what it cannot give. The state cannot give life and therefore it should not take life.
While the bill does not go as far as I should like to see it go, nevertheless it seems to me that it does bring in certain important changes. For example, during the past two decades there has been a great change with regard to the treatment, care and study of criminals and matters in relation thereto. A great deal of psychiatric research has been made and is under way. In this connection, and since it has not been mentioned so far, I should like to refer to two chief points in relation to psychiatric and medical research.
The first is that up to the present the language used in the Criminal Code is almost impossible of psychiatric definition. Thus the word "insanity" means one thing to the legal mind of the lawyer who is in court and has a completely different connotation to the medical profession or the psychiatric mind. The word "psychopath", for example, and all that word implies is new in relation to the outdated words, if I may call them that, in the Criminal Code as we have it at present. I suggest that the words "mentally deficient", for example, would be a much more scientific general term to use in this connection.
Second, it seems to me that too often the decision whether or not a criminal is guilty hinges on psychiatric evidence given by the so-called experts who are called in. It also seems to me that it is both unfair and unreasonable to put a psychologist or psychiatrist into the witness box and, whether he has prepared the case thoroughly or whether he has not, to expect this psychiatrist to give clear and unbiased replies to the questions which are put when he knows that, depending on the evidence he may give in the witness box, he may personally convict the accused. If he says that the accused is not insane according to the present definition in the Criminal Code, which according to the psychiatrist's definition is outmoded then he personally, in effect, convicts the accused. No respected, responsible professional man wants
to put himself in that position. I say, therefore it is time we updated the Criminal Code and brought into the Criminal Code new words dealing with this general category of mental deficients.
If on the other hand he says the criminal under review is insane when he knows perfectly well that the accused has committed some act of violence then the accused is likely to go free. The only point I am making is that I approve of the updating of the Criminal Code certainly with regard to the general class or kind, if I may use that term, of mental deficient.
I do not propose to detain the house any longer. I just wish to say that I feel this amendment to the Criminal Code is an attempt to end the confusion in the public mind which has existed for many years. I think it is an attempt to resolve a very difficult problem. I believe the minister is to be heartily commended and congratulated upon the restrained and careful words he used in his opening statement. I want to say that, in my opinion, these amendments indicate an attempt to temper justice with mercy and forbearance and, for that reason, I propose to support these amendments as a step in the right direction.
Topic: CRIMINAL CODE
Subtopic: REVISION OF PROVISIONS RESPECTING DEATH PENALTY