Archive | How the death penalty debate unfolded in Canada

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Archives | How the death penalty debate unfolded in Canada

The death penalty was officially abolished in Canada in 1976.

On March 10, 1960, Ernest Côté was hanged in the prison of Bordeaux, in Montreal. On December 11, 1962, Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin were hanged at Don Jail in Toronto. These executions, the last to take place in Quebec and Canada, fuel the debate on the abolition of the death penalty in the country.

“It's a holdover from the Middle Ages and the law of retaliation. […] One should not seek the punishment of the guilty […] Human law seeks to protect society. »

— Judge Irénée Lagarde, January 17, 1960

« I am nevertheless in favor of the death penalty because that in my opinion, it is a factor of order.

—A law student at the University of Montreal, January 17, 1960

The execution of Ernest Côté comes at a time when the debate on the abolition of the death penalty is gaining momentum in Canada.

< p class="sc-1wicwa1-0 jkQAul">Excerpt from an investigation by journalist René Lévesque on the issue of maintaining or abolishing the death penalty in Canada

On January 17, 1960, a little less than two months before Ernest Côté was executed, the program Premier plan hosted by Gaétan Barrette, presented an investigation by journalist René Lévesque summarizing the debate. on the abolition of the death penalty in the country.

The journalist interviews a wide range of people to find out whether they are for or against the abolition of the death penalty.

In particular, he asks two members of the justice system, Judge Irénée Lagarde and Crown Prosecutor Louis Robichaud, to summarize their positions in this debate.

Judge Irénée Lagarde is categorical: he is squarely opposed to capital punishment.

It is a practice from another time which goes against his philosophical conception of this what should be the function of justice.

As for Crown prosecutor Louis Robichaud, if he favors the maintenance of the death penalty in Canada, he nevertheless wishes that its application be modified.

The lawyer proposes in particular a reform of the justice system that would institute an automatic appeal mechanism when a death sentence is handed down following a trial.

Journalist René Lévesque also attaches great importance to public opinion in his report.

Excerpt from a vox pop produced by journalist René Lévesque on maintaining the death penalty in Canada.

A vox pop performed by René Lévesque, of which here is an excerpt, is particularly lively.

We see a man and a woman resolutely in favor of maintaining the death penalty in Canada debating with a young man opposed to the death penalty.

In this excerpt, several arguments in favor or against the abolition of the death penalty are mentioned.

According to the calculations by René Lévesque, 58% of respondents to his vox pop want the death penalty abolished.

The debate on capital punishment also intensified in Quebec with the publication by Jacques Hébert, in the 1960s, of two books denouncing the Quebec justice system which had Wilbert Coffin hanged in 1956.

In English Canada, it is the simultaneous execution of two prisoners that fuels the pressure for the death penalty to be abolished.

Report by journalist Daniel Carrière on the hanging of Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin on December 11, 1962

A report by journalist Daniel Carrière, broadcast on the show Tonight of April 27, 1987, tells us about this judicial event.

On December 11, 1962, Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin, incarcerated in the Toronto prison of Don, were hanged.

This double execution is strongly condemned by several demonstrators who denounce its cruelty. Moreover, the evidence of the guilt of the two men is not convincing.

In the prison, the witnesses witness the agony of the condemned, which lasts 15 minutes.

The report highlights the embarrassment of the authorities, who very discreetly bury the two men.

In 1963, the government of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson abolishedde facto the death penalty in the country.

The abolition of capital punishment will be adopted de jure by the Canadian Parliament in July 1976.

In 1987, the restoration of the death penalty was demanded by several federal deputies.

It was in this context that journalist Catherine Kovacs went to the Bordeaux prison in Montreal.

There she met Raoul Boudreau, a prison nurse.

The Montreal Detention Center employee had the task of assisting to the hangings of prisoners sentenced to death.

Report by journalist Catherine Kovacs with Raoul Boudreau, nurse at the Bordeaux prison in Montreal and official witness to capital executions.

He tells Catherine Kovacs the ritual of these executions that the journalist reveals to us in a report presented on the show Montréal this evening, on May 6, 1987 .

Raoul Boudreau gives us the account of a sinister ritual. The atmosphere that emanates from the whole report is gloomy.

What is striking is the fact that witnessing the executions left indelible marks in the nurse's memory.

We always remember that, says Raoul Boudreau.

He confirms to Catherine Kovacs that each performance felt like “living in a horror movie”.

The journalist concludes her report by emphasizing that reinstating the death penalty depends on the will of federal deputies.

She could have added that it was also in the hands of the Prime Minister of Canada.

In this year 1987, the Prime Minister of Canada Brian Mulroney is faced with a dilemma.

Several members of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, which he leads, have called for the opening of a debate in the House of Commons on the restoration of the death penalty.

The first Minister Mulroney is also aware that a significant portion of voters who support his political party are calling for the death penalty to be reinstated in the country.

A few weeks after the broadcast of Catherine Kovacs' report, on June 22, 1987 to be precise, Prime Minister Mulroney rose in the House.

Report by journalist Normand Lester on Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's intervention during the debate on the restoration of the death penalty in Canada< /p>

Brian Mulroney's intervention was so striking that it was the subject of a report by journalist Normand Lester that day on Téléjournal qu animates Jean Ducharme.

The journalist explains that the Prime Minister has decided to vote against reinstating the death penalty.

Brian Mulroney refuses that one day the state convicts an innocent person. Nor is he convinced of the deterrent effect of the death penalty.

The death penalty is a heinous act, in the mind of the Prime Minister, and perfectly unacceptable.

Brian Mulroney's intervention had the effect of a crushing blow on parliamentarians.

Members of the opposition cross the room to come and congratulate him.

Justice Minister Ray Hnatyshyn and Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Clark support the Prime Minister.

On June 30, 1987, during a free vote, 148 deputies opposed the restoration of capital punishment against 127 parliamentarians who voted in favor.< /p> Start of widget. Skip the widget? End of the widget. Back to top of widget?