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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Resurrecting the death penalty?

Just when it seemed that the death-penalty debate in Canada was all but dead, Ipsos-Reid has conducted a poll on the subject, whose results have been summarized in this morning's Vancouver Sun. Here's a link to the full release on the two-week-old poll.

That such a poll was conducted in the first place is interesting. But even more interesting are the poll's results, which show that a solid majority of Albertans and British Columbians--and a slim majority of Ontarians--want the country to reinstutute capital punishment.

It's an issue that my old B.C. Report colleague, Robin Brunet, explored in this recent story, which used the conviction of serial killer Robert Pickton as a catalyst to explore the subject.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on February 14, 2008 in Crime | Permalink


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To believe in the death penalty, you'd have to trust that the gov't won't misuse it and that they will prosecute the right guy. I have serious reservations about giving that kind of power to people who I can't even trust with my money or the truth. Robert Pickton should have been shot by someone in self-defense. So, I believe in the death penalty, but it should be carried out by a potential victim, not some lying parasite.

Posted by: Veteran | 2008-02-14 11:09:33 AM

Extreme cases like Pickton make for bad policy.
The Pickton case is an outlier.

If memory serves, Pickton was convicted of manslaughter not premeditated homicide.

Maybe your colleague, Robin Brunet, should be considering the David Milgaard case and the implications that the Toon police framed Milgaard for murder.

Until the Government and it's agents are more transparent and accountable I don't think giving them the power to execute people is a good idea.

Posted by: Speller | 2008-02-14 11:16:22 AM

Pickton was convicted on six counts of second-degree murder. See: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/12/09/pickton-verdict.html

Posted by: Terry O'Neill | 2008-02-14 11:22:40 AM

Yes, Terry.

Can you tell us whether there used to be Capital Punishment for 2nd degree murder?

Posted by: Speller | 2008-02-14 11:26:29 AM

The first- and second-degree murder division is relatively modern. Consider these facts:

In 1859, offences punishable by death in Canada included: murder, rape, treason, administering poison or wounding with intent to commit murder, unlawfully abusing a girl under ten, buggery with man or beast, robbery with wounding, burglary with assault, arson, casting away a ship, and exhibiting a false signal endangering a ship.
By 1869, only three crimes were punishable by death: murder, rape and treason.
In 1961, legislation was passed which reclassified murder into capital and non-capital offences. Capital murder referred to planned or deliberate murder, murder that occurred during the course of other violent crimes, or the murder of a police officer or prison guard. At this time, only capital murder was punishable by death.
More at: http://www.justice.gc.ca/en/news/fs/2003/doc_30896.html

And, as you might remember from my previous postings and writings about this subject, I'm an abolitionist. Just because I think the subject is newsworthy doesn't mean I'm in favour of it.

Posted by: Terry O'Neill | 2008-02-14 11:34:05 AM

Another major issue which was decided without allowing the Canadian people a say. All major issues (capital punishment, state funded abortion, SSM, immigration, multiculturalism, etc.) should be put to the people in a referendum. Governments refuse knowing that the common sense of the majority will seldom buy what the elitist bureaucrats are pushing.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-02-14 11:36:31 AM

No, no, no Alain: Don't turn the issue over to a pack of wing nuts (democracy). If murder is wrong, then why let the state operation in Afghanistan be turned against us domestically. Give the state the right to kill you and it will. Adolph was elected to office.

Posted by: Veteran | 2008-02-14 11:44:45 AM

Add my vote to those who support both due process and capital punishment.

Posted by: Brent Weston | 2008-02-14 12:14:17 PM

We already have a death penalty In Canada. It's called "freedom of choice" on Abortion. Where the innocent child in the womb is cut to pieces, poisoned by a saline solution and other gory methods. We even have a famous executioner and he has been proposed for the "Order of Canada" by some of his "choice" supporters. To see how Canada's DEATH PENALTY is carried out go to:

Posted by: Stephen J. Gray | 2008-02-14 12:57:37 PM

I used to be a "hang-em-high" sort of guy. The rash of false convictions (some of them due to out and out railroading) that have come to light in the last 15 years have completely changed my persective. The death penalty is, after all, irreversible.

Posted by: Zog | 2008-02-14 1:59:29 PM

Veteran I stand by my comments. Yes, true democracy is flawed but it remains a great improvement over dictatorships. Furthermore capital punishment is not murder and I support it in certain cases and certain situations. Still I would support whatever the decision resulting from a nation wide referendum.

The statement that Hitler was elected is of course true but a lot more complex in reality. Due to the breakdown in German society and erosion of their freedoms, Hitler was able to use mob rule (brown shirts and others) to murder and terrorise opponents. So in fact he took power. This is not to white wash German history but it is meant to keep things in perspective.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-02-14 2:24:07 PM

Give the state more power? That is a scary prospect. The state is what prosecutes. The prosecution is not looking for truth, but a conviction. The presumption is that the adversarial system we have will arrive at the truth. We all hope that this truth is always arrived at. But to believe that the prosecution is after this truth is naive. Giving them a more severe penalty to push is scary indeed. Better 100 guilty go free than 1 innocent be executed. We are all safer.

Posted by: TD | 2008-02-14 3:25:53 PM

Alain: Democracy is far more tyrannical than many Monarchies were. It would be wrong to worry about how a thug (King, Prime Minister, President) got to power. Worry about what he does while he's there. The state being permitted to kill its citizens is way out of line.

Stephen: We are talking about state vs citizen murder. What mothers create and destroy is another issue.

Posted by: Veteran | 2008-02-14 3:58:52 PM

Veterasn: I agree. The tyranny of the majority.

Posted by: TD | 2008-02-14 4:06:17 PM

C'mon Alain: The break down in society and the erosion of freedoms? You mean like people abandoning freedom for a hand out? Have you read the paper lately? Pre-WW II Germany had the same social projects that every Canadian adores. Giving a bunch of goons the means to kill joe citizen in Canada is no different than giving it to any other dictatorship. The tyrant adapts to the power he's (it's) given, regardless of how he gets the power. Keep the state powerless!!!

Posted by: Veteran | 2008-02-14 4:58:53 PM

I believe that you guys have missed the marvelous advance of DNA testing.

In cases where DNA provides definitve proof that the woman was killed by a man, for example, whose DNA is found on/in the body, there is no reason anymore not to use the black hole.

And in fact, it was DNA that showed Milgaard was innocent.
And it was DNA that proved another man, who was an already convicted violent criminal, was the right guy.

As technology is perfected, the scope of capital punishment could be increased if desired.

Posted by: rockyt | 2008-02-14 5:37:31 PM

Veteran said: "We are talking about state vs citizen murder. What mothers create and destroy is another issue."

Veteran: We are talking about the death penalty and state sanctioned killing is a death penalty. A life is a life whether it is in the womb or out of it. And to "destroy" or kill innocent life as in "choice" is a death penalty and state sanctioned killing. Or to use the word of Veteran it is "murder."
Go to http://www.AbortionNo.org and see the innocent victims killed by the DEATH PENALTY of "choice"

Posted by: Stphen J. Gray | 2008-02-14 6:32:26 PM

rockyt, the DNA point is good in that we can be more sure (as near to 100% as possible) the right person is convicted. But, would you still want the state to the power of life and death over you? Their motive is a conviction. Not the truth. It is still possible to have a wrongful conviction, even with DNA testing available. I can think of a few reasons, such as maybe there is no DNA in a crime scene. Or there is multiple DNA from multiple people. Who knows what else.

Tipping the balance in favor of more power to the state is very dangerous for us all.

Posted by: TD | 2008-02-15 12:24:08 AM

>" I can think of a few reasons, such as maybe there is no DNA in a crime scene. Or there is multiple DNA from multiple people. Who knows what else."
TD | 15-Feb-08 12:24:08 AM

I'll tell you what else.

The "WHAT ELSE" is David Milgaard wasn't accidentally convicted.


Agents of the same government that some people want to give the power to execute Canadians, framed David Milgaard, and are STILL collecting their police pensions.

Giving the power of life and death to the government and then assuming it will use it benevolently, when confronted with evidence to the contrary, is willful ignorance at best.

There are not enough checks and balances in the Canadian system, people.

When our government becomes more forthcoming, when our government installs some accountability, then we can discuss bringing back capital punishment.

Posted by: Speller | 2008-02-15 9:17:44 AM

Right Speller: And since that won't happen, we should never give the state the right to kill its citizens. DNA can be contaminated, omitted, planted etc. Technology is not the issue. Power is.

Posted by: Veteran | 2008-02-15 11:35:13 AM

I agree TD that it is always dangerous govt more power in anything.
However, have you ever seen how many people have killed AFTER the convicted killers were released from jail under the present system?

I have an piece stating that over 80 people had already been killed by these relaesed killers.
And that was in the mid 1980S.

I tried to update that number a few yrs ago, but it was not made available to the public.
Obviously people wanted to cover up this BS Liberal sporting 'catch and release' system.

So let's say there are now 120 people that have been killed by released killers.

What's the difference between the state hanging 50 of these DNA-convicted, black-hearted suckers and the 120 that they killed again after release?

To me the state is complicit in the ones killed after release.

Posted by: rockyt | 2008-02-15 5:13:21 PM

Don't we already have the death penalty in Canada via the state health care monopoly?

Posted by: Janet | 2008-02-15 7:35:01 PM


"To believe in the death penalty, you'd have to trust that the gov't won't misuse it and that they will prosecute the right guy. "

Remember the Cuban refugees of the eighties? Didn't Castro release murderers, etc. onto an innocent population?

Given the Canadian propensity for siding with this monstrocity of a leader, your question, while seemingly fair, misplaces your trust in gov't and people.

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2008-02-15 7:53:47 PM

rockyt, even a crappy justice system that releases bad guys, is better than good one that convicts good guys. Until we can be 100% sure 100% of the time, giving more power to the government is a mistake that will cost lives. I would not want to lay my inocent son at the altar so we can execute bad guys. Think of someone you love, who is inocent, and who is wrongfully convivted. The prosecution will go after them for an execution, not the truth.

If you were to look at the lives ruined because the government exercised its power, history would show it is way more than crimials ever could hope for. Hitler, Stalin, etc come to mind. IN Canada, think about the Ducabors, native schools, etc where the government was actually trying to help. Imagine what they are capable when they are trying to kill you!

Posted by: TD | 2008-02-15 10:48:15 PM

>"However, have you ever seen how many people have killed AFTER the convicted killers were released from jail under the present system?"
rockyt | 15-Feb-08 5:13:21 PM

So what you should be arguing is that a life sentence should be "FOR LIFE" not that the death penalty should be returned.

I'm glad I could help you with your confusion.

By the way, rockyt, Larry Fischer, the man who really killed Gail Miller instead of David Milgaard, moved to Winnepeg and continued his serial rapist spree, culminating in raping and attempting to murder an elderly woman whom Fischer stabbed multiple times and left for dead in an abandoned house.

How many dangerous offenders rove free while the police frame innocents?

Posted by: Speller | 2008-02-17 10:35:07 AM

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