Thursday, January 27, 2011

Capital punishment OK, but no death penalty?

There are a number of candid public debates that we never seem to have in Canada: abortion rights, same-sex marriage and capital punishment to name three. Oh, there is a lot written about these subjects, but they are never really debated candidly in parliament or in public.

If you have reservations about same-sex marriage, believing it may be a first step on a journey that will result in the destruction of traditional marriage and its role in society, you’re immediately labeled homophobic and your views are dismissed by many.

If you have reservations over there not being any restrictions on abortion-on-demand, you’re all about sending young women to back alleys to be butchered by some quack, or you’re labeled a religious zealot and your views are dismissed by many.

If you express a view that there should be a role for capital punishment in our society, you’re a Neanderthal who doesn’t understand that capital punishment does not deter the crime of murder and your views are dismissed by many.

So, much to my surprise, I read at the Abacus Data website that a new survey from that polling firm found two-thirds of Canadians said they support the death penalty in certain circumstances. (Thanks to a post on The Iceman’s blog.) Only three in ten Canadians are completely opposed to the death penalty. Yet we have less than majority support (41%) for re-instating capital punishment. Go figure.

Perhaps the most interesting statistic was the finding that 68 per cent of New Democrat supporters personally support the death penalty in certain circumstances, although, only 46 per cent believe the federal government should reinstate it. This is within a few points of the responses from the Conservative Party’s supporters, 77 per cent of whom personally support the death penalty in certain circumstances, and 48 per cent of whom believe the federal government should reinstate it. On what other social issue do Tory and Dipper views track so closely?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper—expressing what he called a personal view during a recent interview with the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge—said “there are times when capital punishment is appropriate.” Though, apparently, he does not intend to try to bring back the death penalty if he forms a majority government. At last, a prime minister willing to address the issue candidly.

My guess is there’d be far more support for reinstating the death penalty if our justice system didn’t have such a dismal record of convicting innocent people: at least six people have been convicted of first-degree murder since capital punishment was abolished in Canada in 1976 and later found to have been not guilty. At least two of them were jailed for more than 10 years, almost certainly enough time—had the death penalty been in force—for them to have exhausted appeals and been executed. Now there’s a grim statistic!

I favour capital punishment for premeditated and multiple murders, the most egregious rapes and sexual crimes against children. Perhaps we could all get a pass for first offence, but repeat offenders for sure should have their lives forfeited. Heck, we countenance terminating lives of un-born innocents, so why should we have scruples about terminating the lives of our most evil neighbours?

Set the bar high so we are unlikely to execute innocent people, but don’t victimize society a second time by having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to house and guard killers, rapists and child molesters, who will not ever be rehabilitated. Frankly, in those cases I don’t care about rehabilitation: kill, rape or molest children and one forfeits one’s life. That’s the way I see it.


Abacus Data Inc. conducted an online survey between January 21 and 24, 2011, among 1,105  randomly selected Canadian adults from an online panel of over 100,000 Canadians. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is comparable to +/- 3.0%, 19 times out of 20.


© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.


  1. I definitely would support the death penalty for killing children and for raping children.
    I support the death penalty for the parent who kills and rapes their children.


  2. FYI Russ, I linked up to you: