OTTAWA, Feb. 13, Reuter: The Canadian Government today announced plans for starting its long promised debate on whether to restore capital punishment.

The announcement brought to an end months of growing pressure from backbench Conservatives eager to get the death penalty debate under way.

Recent opinion polls suggest about 78 per cent of Canadian support a return of the death penalty, a slightly lower figure than in 1976 when hanging was officially abolished’ by a slim majority of members of parliament.

“This issue is a matter of national importance and one that majority of Canadians want Parliament to consider”, Deputy Prime Minister Don Mazankowski told the House of Commons.

Members of Parliament will be free to vote on the issue according to their consciences rather than adhering to party lines as is normally the case, Mazankowski said.

The free vote, not expected before next month at the earliest, was promised by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney during the 1984 election campaign that swept the Progressive Conservatives to power.

The vote, if approved, will lead to creation of a Parliamentary Committee to travel across the country and draft legislation which would then be returned to the commons for a second free vote.

If most of the 282 members of Parliament choose to speak on the issue, as anticipated by the Government, the initial debate could last for several months.

Mulroney and the two opposition party leaders personally oppose restoration of the death penalty. Mazankowski said introduction of the motion in no way indicates official government support but rather fulfills the Conservative Party’s 1984 commitment.

The last time anyone was hanged in Canada was in 1962. All subsequent death sentences were commuted by successive governments.

The maximum penalty for a first degree murder conviction is currently life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Article extracted from this publication >>  February 20, 1987