CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: The Death Penalty in Canada: A History

History, Social Studies, Political Science
1 to 2 lessons
To explore the death penalty debate in Canada
Students will collect information about the death penalty and prepare a short presentation on their findings.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Write the phrase "death penalty" on the board. Ask the class to brainstorm what they know about this topic and write down their comments on the board or chart paper. Identify the Canadian government's position on the death penalty.

Outline the Opportunity

Direct students to the topic Death Penalty Debate on the CBC Digital Archives website. Divide the class into five groups and assign each group one set of the following clips.


"Murderer has dreams of being hanged", "Canada's hangman", "Death penalty abolished", and "Abolition upheld"


"Canada's last hanging", "Opinions on the noose", "Canadians split on death penalty in 1944", and "Death penalty statistics, 1965"


"Dief votes to abolish capital punishment" and "Diefenbaker comments on last execution"


"Quebec MP favours death penalty", "Prison guards support death penalty", "Canada's hangman", and "Bring back capital punishment"


"Quebec MP favours death penalty", "Laurier LaPierre weeps over Truscott case" and "No correlation between murder and death penalty: study"

Students should make sure to view the clips' "Did You Know?" sections as well. As they explore the clips, students should take note of important dates and facts.

Using their findings, each group will prepare a short presentation for the rest of the class in which they outline the highlights of the segments they viewed. Students may wish to use chart paper or the board to aid in their presentations.

Revisit and Reflect

Have groups share their presentations with the class. Students should be prepared to ask and answer questions. Ask the students what questions they still have about the death penalty. List these on the board or chart paper as a reference for any other activities you do on this topic.


The students can write a brief paragraph outlining the new ideas and facts they discovered on the website.

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