Alex Sangha: I wouldn’t be surprised if Stephen Harper resurrected the death penalty

Recently on a radio station, I mentioned that Stephen Harper is turning Canada into the United States, and that I would not be surprised if we end up with the death penalty next.

A few days later, a Conservative senator publicly states that murderers with no chance of rehabilitation should have the option to hang themselves with a rope in prison. This is shocking considering the suicide rate of death row inmates in the United States, for example, is 10 times the American average as a whole.

Then Stephen Harper officially goes on the record to state that it is his personal opinion that there are times when the death penalty is appropriate but that he does not have any plans to bring it back.

Can Stephen Harper really stop the social conservatives in his party from promoting their agenda in Parliament? Many progressive conservatives along the lines of former prime minister Joe Clark have essentially left the party. The Conservatives of Stephen Harper share a much more right-wing ideology that stems from the Reform party.

It is important to remember that it was the minority Conservative government of Stephen Harper in 2007 that reversed Canada’s policy of automatically requesting clemency for Canadian citizens facing the death penalty abroad. This has essentially created a two-tiered level of fundamental human rights, freedoms, and protections for Canadian citizens.

There are many reasons why I am against the death penalty. First, I feel the death penalty is essentially state-sanctioned murder. It violates the sixth commandment, “Thou shall not kill.” It violates the right to life. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience a natural death because it is part of the human experience and completes the cycle of birth and death.

Second, the death penalty may be used to eliminate the poor, marginalized, and socially undesirable. In Canada this means that aboriginal people, the mentally ill, and minorities will be disproportionately at risk. There is also no guarantee that an innocent person is not being executed. This reason alone should be enough to abolish the death penalty forever!

Was it fair to execute Métis leader Louis Riel for high treason for example? Many people would argue that this was an unfortunate and irreversible mistake in Canadian history. Riel was only fighting and advocating for the rights of his people.

Last, justice should not be about revenge. The death penalty would just encourage criminals to “go all out” in their illegal endeavors. Some people in prison may even put corrections staffs or their families and possibly even the victims in greater danger since they have nothing else to lose.

In addition, the death penalty may take an emotional and psychological toll on the person administering the execution. More importantly, there is no compelling evidence that suggests that the death penalty actually deters crime including murders.

In the past, the death penalty was applied to Canadians for theft and even homosexuality. Who knows what crimes would be added to the list if the death penalty was brought back.

The death penalty dates back to 1749 in this country. During World War I, Canadian soldiers were executed for desertion. Starting in 1963, the successive Liberal governments adopted a policy of commuting all death sentences. In 1976, the death penalty was abolished in Canada.

As you can see the death penalty has made up a large part of Canada’s history. It has only been relatively recent that Canadians have been free of this extreme form of punishment. Why should a murderer be granted an “easy way out of their lifetime of incarceration”? If they do the crime, then they should do the time.

Alex Sangha is a registered social worker and the author of The Modern Thinker.

Comments

17 Comments

Jason

Feb 6, 2012 at 2:08pm

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms also protects against "cruel and unusual punishment." It would not be that easy to amend the charter to allow the death penalty.

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marcus

Feb 6, 2012 at 2:38pm

The writer asked, "Can Stephen Harper really stop the social conservatives in his party from promoting their agenda in Parliament?"

Yes. He can, and he will. Very few Conservative MPs are in favour of capital punishment.

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Darrell

Feb 6, 2012 at 4:32pm

"It violates the sixth commandment, “Thou shall not kill.” It violates the right to life. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience a natural death because it is part of the human experience and completes the cycle of birth and death."
For a person to be in prison for life, likely someone was murdered. How about that person? Can that person still have a "natural death"? I stopped reading your storey when you said that rediculous comment. You have nothing valid to say.

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morgus

Feb 6, 2012 at 4:54pm

I cannot see that happening ; it would be too politiclly difficult and not in keeping with what we have seen. The tough on crime agenda is used by governments to look moral, social control via fearmongering and well, tough. But it is just an appearance. Its other function is to make certain parties a shitload of money. The death penalty makes no money and like I said would be too difficult politically when weighed ginst the appearance it gives and the fearmongering part..sorry, incoherent I know but I'm really tired.

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David L.

Feb 6, 2012 at 4:54pm

Dear Mr. Sangha,
So what if your wife/daughter was raped & murdered by a "Clifford Olson" type or worse yet a "Picton" type person. Would you still say the Death Penalty is not right ??
Have a nice day,

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Jason

Feb 6, 2012 at 6:11pm

I find it funny that people are against the death penalty but support abortion. Murder is murder regardless of who does the killing including the state.

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Nunya Biznis

Feb 6, 2012 at 6:29pm

How much damage will Harper do and will we be smart enough to get him out in 3 years?

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Feces

Feb 6, 2012 at 6:57pm

The problem with both the Death Penalty & the Criminal Justice System is that they are NEVER 100% in either killing the guilty or incarcerating the Guilty or even close to it.

Many innocent people are Jailed & Convicted, there are many examples in Canada & the USA not to mention every other Country.

So until you can show a 100% Correct Criminal Justice System hold back on the Electric Chair.

By the way Jesus says in the Bible or God, that thou shall not kill, so how do the Fundamentalist Christians in the Neo-Con Alberta Party square that with the Death Penalty?

Just ignore the inconvenient parts of the Bible? You know the word of God....

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Bro-sky

Feb 6, 2012 at 9:56pm

"Dear Mr. Sangha,
So what if your wife/daughter was raped & murdered by a "Clifford Olson" type or worse yet a "Picton" type person. Would you still say the Death Penalty is not right ??
Have a nice day"

I hate this argument. It's worthless.

I am against the death penalty and pro-choice.

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KiDDAA Magazine

Feb 6, 2012 at 11:09pm

Yes Alex is right Harper is even a more right winged evanglical than most Republicans in the USA. He wanted Canadian troops in Iraq, extended the Afghan mission twice and now lies to Canadians that Iran is making a nuclear weapon, which even Obama says they are not.
Harper believes the Israeli occupation of Palestine is not illegal, says nothing about China's tibet mini occupation and stopped any chance of legalizing marijuana.
Harper and the Cons believe in more prisons, stricter jail sentences but says nothing about root causes and more education and opportunities.
Dyer doesnt ever comment on how right Canada has gone.
We saw what Bush Jr. did to the USA, you are seeing a mini Bush now. Sad thing is that Canada is very left winged, but the new shot callers are Christian right and warmongers. Poltics its never about the people?

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