May 23, 1961 (24th Parliament, 4th Session)


Margaret Aitken

Progressive Conservative

Miss Margaret Aitken (York-Humber):

believe this bill, Mr. Speaker, No. C-92, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect to capital punishment, and the debates that led up to it have shown parliament at its best. In his fine speech during the presentation of Bill No. C-92, the Minister of Justice (Mr. Fulton) gave due credit to the private members who introduced various bills on the subject of capital punishment. I believe that the debates we had in this house last year were good for parliament and good for the country as a whole.
I know that hon. members received, as I did, many letters from the constituents and from people outside our constituencies indicating that the debates crystallized their own thinking as they did our thinking. I received one letter from a lawyer in Prince George, British Columbia. He had this to say, and I thought it was pertinent:
As a practising lawyer, I believe most sincerely that capital punishment degrades and tarnishes the whole administration of justice. It places on judges, jurors and counsel alike, an unbearable strain. It engenders sympathy for the very last man for whom sympathy should be felt-the accused man himself. .
I am an abolitionist, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to capital punishment. I do not believe the taking of life by the courts is a deterrent to murder. I do not believe it is morally right that a man or a group of men should be given the power to take life. I believe hanging is a

Criminal Code
barbarous facet of our civilized society. I believe that capital punishment should be abolished. I do, however, give wholehearted support to this Bill No. C-92. I support it, first of all, because I think it is a forward step.
In last year's debate, I suggested that every step toward abolition of capital punishment is a forward step. I certainly believe that this bill is a step toward abolition. Last year the Anglican Church of Canada declared itself in favour of the abolition of capital punishment and decided to ask the government- I quote the words that were sent to the government-"to initiate proceedings leading to abolition of capital punishment in Canada." I think this bill, Mr. Speaker, is doing just that, initiating proceedings that will lead to the abolition of capital punishment.
I am not going to repeat the arguments that we who would like to see capital punishment abolished put forward in this house during these debates. I do believe that a murderer, whether capital or non-capital, should be taken out of circulation, out of society. I look forward to hearing from the minister an explanation of precisely what the life sentence penalty will now mean. There are some people who say, why should the taxpayers support murderers for many long years. It has been said, and truly said, that you cannot reduce anything as sacred as life to dollars and cents.
Another reason, Mr. Speaker, why I am supporting this bill is that I do not believe at this time if a vote were taken in the House of Commons or in the country as a whole, the result would be favourable to abolition. I believe this measure is a good compromise and a step toward the abolition of capital punishment.

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