Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Last Executions in Canada


"Some consolation."

- Ronald Turpin’s terse reply after being informed that he and Arthur Lucas would probably be the last people executed in Canada.
The last executions in Canada took place 48 years ago today on December 11, 1962. Two killers were hanged at Toronto’s Don Jail. They were Ronald Turpin, 29, who had been convicted of shooting Toronto police constable Frederick Nash, and 54-year-old Arthur Lucas, who had been convicted of killing an FBI informer named Therland Crater. Crater had been hiding out in Toronto while waiting to be a key witness at the trial of a drug lord in Michigan and Lucas, an American, had travelled to Ontario to kill him.

Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin were hanged just after midnight in the gallows of the Don Jail. The two men were placed back to back on the trapdoor and hanged together. No one has been executed in Canada since that December day. Lucas and Turpin hold the dubious distinction of being the last of many to go to the gallows in this country.

According to Amnesty International, there were 710 executions in Canada between 1867 and 1962. Between the years 1892 and 1961, the punishment for all murders in Canada was death by hanging. In 1961, the crime of murder was divided into capital and non-capital offences.

In 1966, capital punishment in Canada was restricted to the murder of prison guards and off-duty police officers. On July 14, 1976, the House of Commons voted to abolish capital punishment for first-degree murder and replaced it with a life sentence without possibility of parole for 25 years. Canada retained the death penalty for military offenses such as mutiny and treason until 1998. On December 10th of that year, legislation was passed removing all references to capital punishment from the National Defence Act.

To watch a video about the executions of Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas, please click on the link below.

To watch a video about the vote to abolish capital punishment in 1976, click on the link below.

Here are some interesting facts about capital punishment in Canada and the United States.

* According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, under pre-Confederation British law (which was in effect until 1859), “some 230 offences, including stealing turnips, were punishable by death.” By the year 1865, only murder, treason and rape were capital crimes.

* The abolition of capital punishment from the Canadian Criminal Code in 1976 has not resulted in an increase in the murder rate in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, the murder rate has been generally decreasing since the mid-1970s. In 2009, the murder rate in Canada was 1.81 homicides per 100,000 population. In the mid-1970s, the Canadian murder rate was around 3.0 per 100,000. Statistics Canada reports that the number of murders in Canada in 2009 was 610 as compared to 611 in 2008.

After peaking in the mid-1970s, the homicide rate generally declined until 1999 and has been relatively stable since. Gang-related homicides, however, have been on the rise since the early 1990s and accounted for almost 1 in 4 homicides in 2008.

 - Statistics Canada

Here are some facts as quoted from the United States Bureau of Justice.

* In 2009, 52 inmates were executed: 24 in Texas; 6 in Alabama; 5 in Ohio, 3 each in Georgia, Oklahoma and Virginia; 2 each in Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee; and 1 each in Indiana and Missouri.

* 51 executions were by lethal injections, 1 by electrocution.

* From January through November in 2010, 12 states executed 45 inmates.

* According to FBI statistics, there were 13,636 murder victims in the United States in 2009 and 10,496 of those victims were male.

* According to FBI statistics, the “murder and nonnegligent manslaughter rate” was 5.4 per 100,000 in the United States in 2008 and 5.0 in 2009.



The Toronto Blue Jays will have to do without pitcher Scott Downs. The 34-year-old southpaw has gone to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. A free agent, Downs signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Angels. He will be missed in the Blue Jays’ bull pen. Left-handed relievers of Downs’ calibre are not easy to come by.


The Toronto Raptors lost their third straight game at the Air Canada Centre last night by a score of 123-116. Their record falls to 8-15 for the season as they continue to struggle.

- Joanne

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