Canada hasn't had the death penalty in a long time, and it may have become one of those things that could be rolled back because we've grown complacent about it. As of yesterday, Canada has a new Attorney-General/Minister of Justice, Rob Nicholson, who wants to bring back capital punishment, and his mandate is, apparently, to get things done.
To put this issue in context, it has been a long long time since we've had a government that wanted to reinstate the death penalty. Martin, Chretien, Mulroney and Trudeau were all against the death penalty. In 1987 there was a free vote in the House of Commons on the death penalty, but it was defeated.
Following the effective abolition of the death penalty in 1976 we entered a 20-year period of declining murders in Canada, although the decline was small. The biggest effect of abolition was an immediate large increase in the conviction rate for murders - after abolition, juries were twice as likely to convict a murder suspect.
Nevertheless, public support for the death penalty is currently at about 40%. (It has been as high as 73%, but that was when the survey question asked about "capital punishment"; when asked about "the death penalty", the positive responses are cut nearly in half.) Add to that a Prime Minister and Justice Minister who want to bring back capital punishment, and we are in grave danger of becoming a killing state again.
Some reasons why I am vehemently opposed to the death penalty:
1. Numerous studies, and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, have concluded that the death penalty offers no deterrent effect.
2. The class system is alive and well in the justice system. For identical crimes, a poor or marginalized person is much more likely to face sterner punishment.
3. Since 1976, at least six Canadians convicted of first-degree murder were later found to be innocent.
4. There is no humane way to kill a person. Even lethal injections are currently banned in Florida and California because of recent botched killings that caused prolonged pain and suffering. (link
5. State executions are about the most barbaric thing that could be done to a person and to a society. No one should have the ability to kill another person except in self-defense or, arguably, war. No one should face death from their government.
You can write our new Attorney-General at Nicholson.R@parl.gc.ca.
You can find your MP's contact info here