Death Penalty


Death Penalty and Canada’s shift in its clemency policy

Canada has been in the news recently about death penalty matters elsewhere in the world. There have been two key developments that signal our government’s shift away from its long-standing position on death penalty foreign policy matters, — and that matters! To many Canadians!

There has been a growing chorus of criticism, nationally and internationally, over the federal government’s abrupt reversal in early November 2007 of a long-standing Canadian foreign policy to seek clemency for any Canadian citizen on death row around the world. Under a new directive, Canada will no longer fight for the lives of Canadians facing execution in “democratic countries, like the United States, where there has been a fair trial.” This begs the question, of course, about what criteria will be used to assess that state of affairs in various jurisdictions. A double standard has now been created that could undermine efforts to protect Canadians in non-democratic countries: there are currently two other Canadians facing possible execution, in China and Ethiopia, for example.

Further to this first policy reversal, the federal government also announced soon thereafter that Canada would not co-sponsor the recent United Nations resolution against state executions, abandoning a decade-long leadership role on the issue.

CCJC has a long track record of work and witness in “choosing life” in our responses to crime, including our opposition to the death penalty. In addition to playing a strong leadership role in the 1987 campaign against the return of the death penalty in our own country, CCJC has spoken out against execution in specific cases, for example Stanley Faulder in Texas in 1999. Our faith message of love and transformation continues to be that we must find truly healing ways of dealing with the pain of murder – ways which seek to re-knit community and rebuild lives instead of destroying them. We believe that the ethos which informs support for executions is exactly the one that informs offenders who mete out their hostility indiscriminately; we can either follow their example or resist. CCJC continues to work to stand with all those suffering from the tragedies of murder, and, as a civilized society, to find a better way. Because violence done in the name of justice is not truly justice. Because killing people who kill people in order to teach them that killing people is wrong, makes no sense at all.

We continue to do this work in solidarity with other organizations in Canada and in other countries. Follow the links to find out about several initiatives currently underway to mobilize people to express their view on the important matters before us at this time. We encourage you to read the following message from Amnesty International (PDF) and inform yourself and others of opportunities offered to lend your voice to the chorus.


March 2013: Maryland state marginally defeated the legislation to end the death penalty. Governor O’Malley had mostly used moral argument and is now turning to financial argument in a bid to return to the effort to abolish the death penalty. This article takes the costs incurred since 1978 in California to practice the death penalty:

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