Capital Punishment

Canada’s decision to abolish the Death penalty was one of the best they’d ever made.  This type of punishment is cruel and senseless and even a vicious criminal shouldn’t be forced to endure such torture.  The reason why this issue is so controversial is because of the opposing arguments.  Each side presents many appealing “facts”, but the truth is that many of the arguments presented to support capital punishment are not facts at all.  For example, one of the key reasons why the death penalty is used, is to scare other potential murders away from committing the crime.  According to accurate statistics though, having the death penalty in play hasn’t made any significant impact on murder rates in any of the countries where this punishment is used. (Gendreau & Renke, 2000)

Laws concerning the death penalty (1859-present)

        Until 1859, Canadian law said that “stealing turnips”, and being found “disguised in a forest”(Gendreau & Renke, 2000), plus another 230 offences, were punishable by death. By 1865 only murder, treason, and rape were capital offences. In 1914 the first request for its abolition was made by Robert Bickerdike who presented a private member's bill to parliament.  The law remained unchanged though despite frequent submissions. In 1967, a government bill to apply mandatory life imprisonment in all murder cases, except when the victim was an on-duty police officer or prison guard, was passed by a vote of 105 to 70 for a 5-year trial period. This legislation was again sustained in 1973, supported by a 13-vote majority. By a majority of 6 votes, the House of Commons abolished hanging in 1976. (Gendreau & Renke, 2000)  This decision was received by Canadian society with mixed opinions, but the clear majority of our population was in favour of the new legislation.

Arguments i) against and ii) supporting Capital Punishment

i) Against

Unfair Sentencing

It is virtually impossible to apply death sentences fairly. In countries that practice capital punishment, the people on death row are typically poor and thus could not afford the best defense at their initial trial. They are also mainly Afro-American or Hispanic which raises larger issues of racial inequality in the US. As ethnic minorities, they are also likely to receive more strict judgments from juries than their white counterparts who commit the same crime. (Fieser, 1997)

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Extenuating circumstances

People who commit violent and disturbing crimes have often suffered from neglect, emotional trauma, abuse/cruelty, abandonment, lack of love, and a host of destructive social conditions. These “mitigating” circumstances may have damaged their humanity to the point that it is unfair to hold them fully responsible for their wrongdoing(s) (Cauthen, 1999).  If this were correct, the Canadian justice system would definitely be the most sensible approach, for they should not be punished for their upbringing!  They would receive treatment and most likely, all efforts would be made to rehabilitate the individual- they would not be killed.

Possibility of ...

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