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Citizens' Forum: Debating the death penalty

First airing in 1942 and running for over two decades, Citizens' Forum was billed as "an inquiry into the postwar world," a discussion show that addressed countless major issues of the times. Produced in co-operation with the Canadian Association for Adult Education (CAAE), it was one of the most interactive programs the CBC ever aired. Listeners voted on upcoming topics, and the CAAE produced printed pamphlets so listeners could read up on debate topics in advance and contribute informed questions during broadcasts.

Citizens' Forum tackles a timely and always-contentious debate: should Canada abolish the death penalty? The House of Commons is set to vote on the matter sometime in the weeks following this broadcast, but what do Canadians think now? Today's guest is death penalty advocate Jack Doupe, assistant publisher of Canada Month magazine. Doupe defends the death penalty, then Citizens' Forum asks listeners in five different cities to weigh in on the question. 
• Canada would not abolish the death penalty until 1976 (except for some offences under the National Defence Act), but it did declare a moratorium on executions in 1967, except in cases involving the murder of a police officer or corrections officer.
• The country's last execution took place in 1962 at Toronto's Don Jail. The condemned were Arthur Lucas, 54, convicted of premeditated murder of an informant and witness and Robert Turpin, 29, charged with unpremeditated murder of a police officer.

• Canada has executed a total of 710 people, including 13 women. The last woman executed in Canada was Marguerite Pitre, a co-conspirator in the 1949 bombing of a Canadian Pacific Airlines flight in which 23 people were killed. At the time, it was the worst mass murder in Canadian history. Pitre was executed in 1953.

• Parliament held a free vote on whether to reinstate capital punishment in 1987. The abolitionists won by just 21 votes, winning 148 to 127.

• Canada completely abolished the death penalty in 1998 when it removed the death penalty from the National Defence Act.

Medium: Radio
Program: Citizens' Forum
Broadcast Date: Feb. 11, 1965
Guest(s): Jack Doupe
Resource: Len H. Brooks
Duration: 25:45
Photo: Napoleon Belanger / Library and Archives Canada / C-014078

Last updated: December 11, 2012

Page consulted on March 4, 2014

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