[CORA Archive] Waning support for capital punishment

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A dramatic decline in support for capital punishment

Capital punishment has not been a feature of the Canadian justice system for some time [a a moratorium was instituted in 1967 and the practice was abolished in 1976] but with the discovery of a serial killer in Toronto last week, it is worth looking back into the archive to see how Canadian views on the practice have changed.

In 1979, 77% of Canadians supported capital punishment for certain crimes. The use of certain crimes probably encourages respondents to think of the worst crimes and evaluate the appropriateness of capital punishment in that context. The alternative is being against capital punishment under all circumstances.

  • The share in favour declined somewhat through the 80s (it rose between 1995 and 1999) but did not decline significantly until after 2000.
  • Since 2005, only about half of Canadians have been in favour of capital punishment for certain crimes

It is hard to imagine that Canadians would reverse their views and that policy makers faced with these changes would ever vote to reinstate the death penalty.

Note, that the decline in support for capital punishment has occurred as Canadians have also become more accepting of same-sex marriage and marijuana. Something to think about!


Source: Environics Focus Canada [computer file]. Environics Research Group, Toronto, ON [producer], Canadian Opinion Research Archive, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON

For a review of capital punishment in Canada visit CBC review