History of Capital Punishment in Canada

Timeline of the Abolition of Capital Punishment in Canada

Empty Jail Cells
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Capital punishment was removed from the Canadian Criminal Code in 1976. It was replaced with a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole for 25 years for all first-degree murders. In 1998 capital punishment was also removed from the Canadian National Defence Act, bringing Canadian military law in line with the civil law in Canada. Here is a timeline of the evolution of capital punishment and the abolition of the death penalty in Canada.

1865

Crimes of murder, treason, and rape carried the death penalty in Upper and Lower Canada.

1961

The murder was classified into capital and non-capital offenses. Capital murder offenses in Canada were premeditated murder and murder of a police officer, guard or warden in the course of duty. A capital offense had a mandatory sentence of hanging.

1962

The last executions took place in Canada. Arthur Lucas, convicted of the premeditated murder of an informer and witness in racket discipline, and Robert Turpin, convicted of the unpremeditated murder of a policeman to avoid arrest, were hanged at the Don Jail in Toronto, Ontario.

1966

Capital punishment in Canada was limited to the killing of on-duty police officers and prison guards.

1976

Capital punishment was removed from the Canadian Criminal Code. It was replaced with a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole for 25 years for all first-degree murders.

The bill was passed by a free vote in the House of Commons. Capital punishment still remained in the Canadian National Defence Act for the most serious military offenses, including treason and mutiny.

1987

A motion to reintroduce capital punishment was debated in the Canadian House of Commons and defeated on a free vote.

1998

The Canadian National Defence Act was changed to remove the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. This brought Canadian military law in line with the civil law in Canada.

2001

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled, in United States v. Burns, that in extradition cases it is constitutionally required that "in all but exceptional cases" the Canadian government seek assurances that the death penalty will not be imposed, or if imposed not carried out.