When we feel that the laws in Canada are unfair, we would do well to study Canadian history.

From the book “Drop Dead: A Horrible History of Hanging in Canada,” by author Lorna Poplak. 

“Capital punishment, the execution of someone found guilty of a crime, dates back to arrival of the European explorers on our shores. In those days, if you were condemned to death, quite a wide range of methods could be used to punish you. You could be hanged, or face a firing squad, or be burned at the stake.

Although Canada remained a collection of separate British colonies until Confederation in 1876, a Royal Proclamation in 1763 replaced the prevailing Canadian legal system with the laws of England.

By the end of the 1700s in Britain, however, the litany of crimes regarded as sufficiently horrible to warrant the death penalty had swelled to 220, including nefarious acts as keeping company with gypsies or skulking in the dark with a blackened face.

In 1828, Patrick Burgan of Saint John, New Brunswick, aged eighteen or nineteen, received the death penalty for the double offence of stealing a watch and some money from his former employer and clothing from a sailors’ boarding house.

Given the power and pre-eminence of religion in Canada at that time, your very life would have been in jeopardy if you were caught scrawling slogans on the side of a church. You could also be hanged for stealing your neighbor’s cow, which was the fate of B. Clement of Montreal. And just in case you thought that the law protected the young as it does today, think again. Children were regarded as miniature adults and treated as such ” Clement was only thirteen years old when executed.”

June Vandermark

McBride BC