It is understandable that when we, as a society, are faced with a monstrous crime, some among us ponder capital punishment
Paul Bernardo, Clifford Olson, Robert Pickton and now those accused of murdering young Tori Stafford - who hasn't considered that the world would be a better place if such people were put to death?
In our well-placed horror and anger, we forget how many innocent people have been put to death or how many innocent people sat on death row for decades before being cleared.
Those who argue for reinstating the death penalty say that it should be reserved for only those cases where guilt is absolute and the crime merits the penalty. But that has been the justification throughout history - and, as we know, our barometer of what merits the ultimate penalty has changed over time.
Some history books say the first execution in Canada, on Jan. 19, 1649, was a 16-year-old girl found guilty of theft. Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas were the last prisoners to suffer execution in Canada, in 1962. Turpin was a small-time thief who shot a policeman while fleeing a restaurant robbery. Lucas was a black man convicted of killing an FBI informant despite lingering questions over his guilt and mental impairment. Both had little previous violence in their history.
Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976, and, while there have been calls to bring it back, polls suggest that many Canadians continue to believe that the death penalty is simply too "final" to leave in the hands of a fallible justice system subject to politics and prejudice.
Even the "tough-on-crime" Conservatives are reluctant to start the debate again. And that, for once, is a good thing.