Death penalty: A referendum in Canada?

Today in Montreal, Luka Magnotta, 32, was found guilty by a jury of a gruesome premeditated murder and four other charges, and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. The chances of Magnotta ever being paroled are slim to none, because society generally does not give people who commit horrendous crimes like his a second chance.

To recap, in case you haven’t heard about this case, here’s an excerpt from today’s article in the Montreal Gazette by Sue Montgomery, who has been reporting on the trial — which has had worldwide coverage — since its beginning:

The jury in the case found Luka Magnotta guilty of all five charges he faced in the killing and dismemberment of Chinese national Lin Jun.

After a little more than seven days of deliberations, eight women and four men decided the 32-year-old Scarborough native knew exactly what he was doing when he brought Lin Jun to his apartment on May 24, 2012, then slit his throat and cut him into 10 pieces.

He knew what he was doing when he bought mailing boxes to send Lin’s feet and hands, wrapped in pink tissue paper, to schools in Vancouver and to the Liberal and Conservative parties of Canada.

He knew what he was doing when he videotaped hours spent with Lin, then edited portions together, added music and uploaded the end result to the Internet under the title One Lunatic One Ice Pick.

So, while Lin Jun’s parents — who gave a moving victim’s impact statement to the court today after the verdict was announced — undoubtedly will suffer every single day for the rest of their lives because of what Luka Magnotta did to their son, Magnotta will be pampered in the Canadian prison system with three square meals a day, full medical and dental treatment and, no doubt, will have other privileges that many impoverished honest people around the world will never know.

At taxpayers’ expense.

Is justice being served by letting Magnotta stay alive? Or should Canada reinstate the death penalty to deal with the likes of him?

I know that some people in Canada would say that the legal system should not have the right to take a life. Some would cite religious grounds. I suppose some Christians hold out hope for his redemption, and that his time in prison might lead him back “to Christ,” while others might believe he is going to hell no matter what — so why tarry?

But there are many schools of spirituality (I adhere to one of them) that believe you reap what you sow (i.e. karma), and that if you murder without just cause, you will die a similar death in this life or another one (a future incarnation). We might, in fact, be doing people like Magnotta a favour by executing them because we might be saving them from future deaths like the ones they caused. They would be reaping what they have sown sooner rather than later, and we would also be saving taxpayers the burden of having to support someone they might not want to support.

For those who don’t hold religious and/or spiritual beliefs but hold out some hope for Magnotta’s redemption and a possible contribution to the betterment of mankind, I would ask this: should we then be locking him up for life, or should we have a special training facility where he could be rehabilitated and be allowed to re-enter society?

Here is my question for all Canadians, and for those in other countries/states where the death penalty has been banned:

Should Canadians (and people in other countries) be allowed to vote in a nationwide referendum seeking the reinstatement of the death penalty for those  convicted beyond a shadow of a doubt of premeditated murder?

— Jillian

21 thoughts on “Death penalty: A referendum in Canada?

  1. Never, it is a far worse punishment to live in a cage every moment of every day. Every day I see the sun and walk in the woods, I am thankful that I live in a country that can afford to leave people like Magnotta or Bernardo to rot away for their whole lives. If you kill this guy then his punishment ends and does nothing to help the family and friends of his victims.

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  2. Lock them up and throw away the key. The problem with killing prisoners is that it is a revenge killing – nothing less. But I would never hope for “redemption”. The problem with the death penalty is – it’s permanent. And innocent people have been killed by their government. According to a study by Forbes, since 1973, four percent of those executed were, in fact, innocent of the crime they were killed for.

    Even one is too many.

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    1. For discussion by everyone:

      So, the consensus so far is: no, we should not bring back the death penalty. But I wonder about one of the reasons being cited: that putting someone like Magnotta to death would be nothing more than “revenge,” and that he would “suffer more” if he is left to rot in prison for the rest of his life. Isn’t that a form of cruel revenge, too? If we are going to be caring and compassionate, should we not either rehabilitate him or simply put him out of his misery?

      I understand the concern about executing “innocent” people, which is why in my post I wrote “convicted beyond a shadow of a doubt.” In Magnotta’s case, he admitted murdering Jun Lin. He used a “not criminally responsible” defence by reason of mental instability, which the prosecution and the jury didn’t buy.

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      1. I really believe that many criminals can never be rehabilitated an shoule live the remainder of their life behind bars. But killing them just makes murderers of us. And as I said before, even one innocent person killed in my name is one too many.

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  3. No, never, ever!
    It’s illegal to murder someone, so the State (we) should not ne exempt from that!
    This outside of the fact that justice is fallible.
    Prisons though should be minimal, but we need to remain human to even those who did commit horrible acts.
    And as already commented, being locked in is most likely more punishment.

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  4. Basic question: Who are we to judge? I am responding to Ms. Page because I see no difference in the call for retribution in the form of death as a penalty and what ISIL is doing? Sorry. Unfortunately, we are not developed enough(yet) to be able to separate the killers from the victims at an early stage. And it begs the question of course whether we would want to? It is “much” bigger than our feeble minds are capable of dealing with. This said, of course it is the democratic right of the Nation State to make Laws that take human life or enact enforcement that ensure a peaceable conduct of the citizenry. I am too fearful of people who would want to invoke the judgement of the gods because there are just too many right now who do. And there is always the Mafia. Whatever form and cultural group in that form. Hard it is to be “human”. Isn’t it just simpler. You carry a gun and so will I

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  5. I think people are misunderstanding the question here. It’s not about merit or lack of merit of capital punishment. It’s about should it be decided at a referendum. I think it should, every decade, referendum to keep/abolish or reinstate/not reinstate. No political campaigning, no election promises, no advocating for or against by any elected or appointed public official. Just people deciding based on what they believe is right.

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    1. ” It’s not about merit or lack of merit of capital punishment. It’s about should it be decided at a referendum.”
      Absolutely positively without any doubt – NO!
      And it is all about merit.
      There is no way that you would ever change minds every ten years. The right-wing wants to kill and the left wing does not That will never change and it would be horribly cruel to those who were murdered by the State days before the referendum flip-flopped on the question.
      And do you *really* think it could be non-partisan? If so, you are really delusional. (And probably from the Right Wing).

      One innocent person murdered by the state is too many.

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      1. People and society are not robots, things change, opinions change, economic situations change. Pierre Trudeau didn’t run on a promise to abolish capital punishment, the Liberals did it against public opinion, ever since then, the majority of Canadians were always against that decision. I doubt they are all right wing as you say.

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      2. Jillian, it’s big political issue more then an issue of justice. It’s still polarizing issue. It’s not like we are going to have open armed rebellion any time soon, and if we do, impossible to predict how we’re gonna deal with it.
        One of the jurors even said later that Riel was tried for treason but hanged for the execution of Thomas Scott.
        It doesn’t have anything to do with today’s world.

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    2. I have a serious problem with “what they believe is right?” Not the democratic process, but frankly, wrt to this issue, I do not trust the electorate to vote “for the right thing” as much as I do not trust “elected” politicians or “experts” on the subject. Perhaps the chilling reality is what I wrote in my Comment previously. Another “bingo” for Inglourious Basterds. I suggest a good read: Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.

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      1. Something to add to my reading list.
        “It is, rather, a chilling tale of conformity gone mad.” — Kent Brockman

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      2. “I do not trust the electorate to vote “for the right thing””
        If this were the case, then slavery would still be legal in the USA as the majority of the people in the deep south (and some right-wing morons today) really believed that slavery was good for the slaves. They *really* thought they were doing “the right thing”.

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      3. Yet you trust Pierre Trudeau and his party that abolished without consulting the people? If you can’t trust the electorate, who can you trust?

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    3. No, Paul!

      Never, ever should there be any vote mor referendum about reinstating the death penalty!
      It should be a ‘punishment’ abolished all over the World!
      First of all, if a country has laws that forbids it’s citizens to kill someone, then that should also apply to the State.
      And again, justice is fallible, so the risk of executing an innocent person is there.

      BTW, I guess quite a few proponents of the death penalty would probably change their vote if it would come with that anyone who votes in favour can and will be called upon to act as executioner, certainly if it would hold the risk of being held responsible if the person they executed was later found to be innocent, which then basically would see them prosecuted for murder…..

      Liked by 1 person

  6. oogha. Definitely opened a can-of-worms with this one didn’t we? One observation. Killing is easy. Building a civil society not so. But it never was. %@

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