Law Reform: Capital Punishment in Canada
CLN4U: Canadian and World Studies
For one hundred years of Canadian history, Capital Punishment was acceptable and encouraged. People would begin counting down the days until the upcoming public execution
to celebrate it with each other. Capital Punishment also referred to as the Death
The penalty is the most significant punishment that one could have received in Canada at the time, and the
journey to complete the abolition of the sentence was extended. It wasn't until December 11, 1962
that the government 1 took the last lives, and even after that, the fight was not over.
Before 1859 there were approximately 250 offenses that could land an individual with
Capital Punishment, including stealing turnips and hiding in disguise in the forest.2
However, by 1865, only three offenses could bring about the Death Penalty, including murder,
treason, and sexual assault. 3 In 1914, Robert Bickerdike (Member of Parliament) spoke up about
this issue at a federal level for the first time. When no action was taken, Bickerdike spoke up
again in 1916, introducing a bill to replace Capital Punishment with a life sentence. Bickerdike
felt that the Death Penalty directly insulted Christianity and stated. There is nothing more
degrading to society than the Death Penalty. 4 The replacement bill was not passed, and
no action was taken. In 1950, another Member of Parliament, Ross Thatcher, also felt that
Capital Punishment goes against Christianity and is brutal. He moved a bill to amend the
Criminal Code to abolish the Death Penalty. Though the bill did not pass the second reading,
Thatcher promised to introduce a bill every year until the law was changed.5 In 1961, murder got
reclassified as capital and non-capital murder, which is now known as a first and second degree
3 Canada Ends the Death Penalty.? Canadian History Ehx, September 17, 2022.
1 Capital Punishment in Canada.? The Canadian Encyclopedia. Accessed September 19, 2022.
murder. This reclassification allowed the Death Penalty to apply to first-degree murder
but not second.6 When Lester B. Pearson and the Liberals defeated John Diefenbaker in 1963,
the abolition of Capital Punishment was finally being taken seriously. Ronald Turpin and Arthur
Lucas was the last person to be hanged on December 11th, 1962, and things progressed. On November 30th, 1967, a temporary five-year ban on the Death Penalty was passed and
applied to every offense except the murder of police and correction officers. This bill did expire
in 1973, but on January 26th of the same year, the Solicitor General of Canada decided to
continue the partial ban with the goal of complete abolishment in mind. Finally, on July 14th,
1967, a vote of 130 to 124 made the final call to abolish Capital Punishm...