Canadian Journal of Criminology Volume: 25 Issue: 4 Dated: (October 1983) Pages: 421-431
This analysis of major arguments against abolition of the death penalty in Canada concludes that Canada's homicide rate has remained low and police enjoy a high degree of security in their work even though no executions have occurred in the past 20 years.
Canada's last hangings were carried out in December 1962, although the de jure abolition of the death penalty did not come until 1976. However, every attempt to eliminate capital punishment has met with fierce opposition. During the most recent debates, retentionists claimed that abolishing the death penalty would lead to substantial increases in criminal homicides and more killings of police officers by criminals. They also maintained that abolition would be an undemocratic act that went against popular opinion. An analysis of criminal homicides between 1962 and 1970 showed that the increase in homicide was not attributable to the suspension of the death penalty. Moreover, since 1977 the rate of criminal homicide has been declining steadily. Although 1981 saw a slight increase, the criminal homicide rate was still lower than before 1975. Evidence from other countries also suggests that capital punishment is irrelevant to the homicide rate. Canadian police organizations have been vociferous supporters of the death penalty, but research fails to support claims that the death penalty provides additional protection to police against being killed on the job. Taking into account increases in manpower, police in Canada appear safer now than they were prior to abolition and only an average of 3.5 are killed on duty annually. Abolitionists have responded to the public opinion issue by contending that polls are not accurate measures of true public sentiment, the general public is not knowledgeable about the death penalty, and that the law should lead rather than follow public opinion since beliefs regarding capital punishment are rarely held on rational grounds. Tables and 23 references are included.