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History of Capital Punishment in Canada

Timeline of the Abolition of Capital Punishment in Canada

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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 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
Murder was classified into capital and non-capital offences. Capital murder offences in Canada were premeditated murder and murder of a police officer, guard or warden in the course of duty. A capital offence 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 offences, 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 before 25 years. This brought Canadian military law in line with 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.

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