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.