A half-century has passed since the last person in Canada was executed, but a recent public opinion poll suggests Canadians are warming to the idea of a return to capital punishment.
The survey conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion in partnership with the Toronto Star found that 63 % of the 1,002 Canadians surveyed across the country believe the death penalty is sometimes appropriate. 61 % said capital punishment, which was abolished in Canada in 1976, is warranted for murder.
“I think people might be warming to the idea of having it as an option on the table, if anything just as a deterrent,” said Jaideep Mukerji of Angus Reid.
But Mukerji said the poll also reveals that it is “not a black and white” issue for many Canadians. Given the choice of supporting the death penalty or life imprisonment, 50 % chose the latter, the survey found.
“We ask the question in 2 ways — do you support or oppose the death penalty — and in that context people really do support it,” he said. But when the option of life imprisonment is introduced as an option for those convicted of murder, “50 % actually say they would prefer life in prison.”
The debate over restoring the death penalty took on new life last week when Conservative Senator Pierre Hugues-Boisvenu suggested serial murderers should be given a rope to hang themselves in prison. In June 2002, the senator’s daughter Julie was kidnapped, raped and murdered. Boisvenu later withdraw his remark.
The Angus Reid online survey found that Canadians’ views on the death penalty differ greatly according to political allegiance and region. The poll was conducted Feb. 2 and 3 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 %, 19 times out of 20.
In British Columbia and Alberta, about seven in 10 support the return of the death penalty; 6 in 10 Ontarians, or 62 %, agree.
The most opposition was in Quebec, with about 45 % against the return of capital punishment. Some 32 % in Ontario and 24 % in British Columbia were also opposed.
“These respondents (about 75 %) are primarily concerned over the possibility of wrongful convictions leading to executions, but most (54%) also feel that even if a convicted murderer has taken a life it is wrong to take the murderer’s own life as punishment,” the survey results stated.
The poll found that respondents who voted Conservative in the 2011 federal election were more likely to regard the death penalty as “always” or “sometimes” appropriate while the majority of those who vote Liberal, Bloc Québécois or Green were opposed to the return of the death penalty. NDP supporters were divided on the question.
Last year, Angus Reid Public Opinion asked similar questions in the United States and Britain and found that the majority of respondents in both countries supported the continuation or the return of the death penalty.
(source: The Star)