Only one in five Canadians approve of idea, survey found
The Conservative government found that just one in five Canadians supported the death penalty as a criminal deterrent in a survey it commissioned this summer in support of its justice policies.
Support for the death penalty was highest in Alberta, where almost one-third supported the idea of capital punishment, and lowest in Newfoundland with 17 per cent support. In Ontario, 21 per cent thought some convicts should be put to death, according to the poll of 4,005 people.
The issue has taken centre-stage in Ottawa after Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day announced last week that Canada would no longer seek clemency for its citizens who are sentenced to death in democratic countries like the United States.
The comments were in relation to the case of Alberta-born Ronald Allen Smith, who was sentenced to death by lethal injection in 1982 for the murder of two men in Montana.
In Halifax Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government has "no desire" to start a debate on capital punishment in Canada, but also does not want to interfere in the perennial debate that plays out in the U.S. about the death penalty.
"The reality in this particular case is that were we to intervene it would very quickly become a question of whether we were prepared to repatriate a double murderer to Canada," he said. "I think that would send the wrong signal to the Canadian population."
Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale said the government’s position is untenable, in part because it forces Canada to pass judgment on which states are "democratic" and which are not.
"I think this reveals to Canadians just a little sneak preview of what’s really in the back of their minds," Goodale said of the abrupt change to Canada’s long-standing policy of seeking clemency for those sentenced to death abroad. "And remember that there are several front benchers who personally would argue for the reinstatement of the death penalty."