Mr. Bert Leboe (Cariboo):
Mr. Speaker, I had not intended to speak tonight, or even at all, on this bill. However, on the invitation of the Prime Minister tonight I rise to defend the position which I will be taking in the vote which is to follow. Someone has asked when it will be. I do not know when it will be. Perhaps the Prime Minister has spoken at the half way mark in the debate, for all I know. The fact remains that previously in debate on this subject the Prime Minister had taken the position which I think was quite correct. That was to refrain from entering a debate on the subject. I say this for the simple reason that there is more power vested in the Prime Minister and in his office than in that of any other individual in Canada. Naturally in a position of this kind, with the power that the Prime Minister's office has the position of those surrounding him becomes somewhat hazy. There is no doubt that the position taken by the Prime Minister is, in my mind, the right one, but I regret very much that he saw fit to enter the debate at this particular time.
[DOT] (9:20 p.m.)
We are speaking about something that is neither fish nor fowl. Even the Prime Minister spoke as though this was an abolitionist bill. Yet, as we see it tonight, we recognize it as something that indicates that capital punishment is in fact a deterrent, although many of us do not recognize that fact. Many of us believe that capital punishment is in existence for the protection of society, and feel that it should be retained on that basis. The Prime Minister said that three quarters of a loaf was better than none. He also indicated that he hoped the whole matter would soon be disposed of, but it is my understanding that if this bill passes the situation will remain unchanged for five years.
It seems to me that if this government remains in office for very much longer we will be presented with an amendment which will shorten the duration of this bill. We will
DEBATES November 16, 1967
be faced with another bill advocating the complete abolition of capital punishment, sponsored by this same government.
Much has been said about police officers and guards. I feel that in this regard there is great discrimination against others who have suffered at the hands of those who wilfully murder and kill. Let us consider protecting these people, as well as guards and policemen. There are many who are absolutely powerless to avoid their own demise, because of the inability to protect themselves from someone who might become a killer. As a result of this bill these killers will spend their time in prison, for how long no one knows.
Someone suggested that retentionists were here arguing on the basis of revenge and retaliation. I think the Prime Minister used these expressions. Let me deny most emphatically that we are here on the basis of attempting to be revenged. This matter does not concern individuals; it concerns the people of Canada. In our democratic structure we in the House of Commons must make decisions, therefore we cannot argue from the point of view of personal revenge. This whole matter is not viewed from a personal position in any way, but from the point of view of representatives of society.
Surely it is absolutely impossible to be completely just through our penal reform system. A convicted murderer could be 65 or 70 years of age. Time will run out on such an individual. But a convicted murderer 16 to 20 years of age who is sentenced to imprisonment for the remainder of his life may well spend 60 years in prison. That person would be no more than a vegetable. The man 65 or 70 years of age might be quite content to stay in prison, eat three meals a day, have proper exercise and a warm place to sleep. That individual no longer wants to play baseball or hockey. I point this out to support the argument that we cannot mete out punishment without having differences.
Topic: CRIMINAL CODE
Subtopic: AMENDMENTS RESPECTING DEATH SENTENCE AND LIFE IMPRISONMENT