Unpopular Abolition: Analysis of Canadian Parliament's 1976 Debate to Abolish Capital Punishment

Nicholson, Michael
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University of Guelph

The subject of capital punishment receives a great deal of scholarly attention, with emphasis focusing increasingly on its abolition. But very little is known about how governments rationalize the decision to abolish this law, despite public opinion often opposing abolition. This thesis attempts to fill this gap in the literature by exploring Canada’s process of abolishing capital punishment, and how Members of Parliament justified passing legislation that was opposed by a majority of Canadians. Findings based on thematic content analysis reveal that many Members of Parliament employed strategic policy framing in their speeches in attempts to convince members of the legislature to also support their position regarding abolition. Because the issue of capital punishment necessitated a free vote, proponents of abolition used the parliamentary debate to diminish the significance and relevance of public opinion. This thesis concludes by discussing the implications of these findings.

Canada, Abolition, Capital Punishment, Death Penalty, 1976, Parliament, Debate, MP, Public Opinion, Legislature, Free Vote, Political Rhetoric, Policy Framing, Thematic Content Analysis, Framing, Themes, Canadian law, Criminal law