December 26, 1999

              Timing's lethal for private bill

                                     By MARK BONOKOSKI
                                            Sun Media

                           OTTAWA -- If it's true in both life and comedy that timing is everything,
                          then it would be safe to say Reform MP John Reynolds hasn't a chance.

                           If the private member's bill he recently tabled for first reading had to do
                          with peace and goodwill among men, then his timing at the advent of the
                          Christmas season would have been impeccable.

               A maestro's stroke, no less.

               The same timing would apply if his bill were to do with solving the plight of the homeless,
              always a provocative theme at this time of year when hearths are warm and generosity has
              been known to prevail over sensibility.

               Charity, virtually any charity, is bound to tug at the heartstrings when sleighbells are
              ringing, as every Salvation Army Santa worth his street-corner kettle will attest.

               But John Reynolds' private member's bill has to do with none of these things. It has to do,
              instead, with bringing back the death penalty for those special killers in our lives.

               Insert needle, open valve. Yes, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

               While private member's bills calling for the return of capital punishment have been a dime a
              dozen over the last 30 years, but worth no more than a plugged nickel, John Reynolds has
              to be given credit for putting in the hard slog for the return of something which has a
              snowball's odds in hell of being reinstated into the Constitution.

               Banished since 1976, when Rene Vaillancourt became the first killer sentenced to die to
              escape the noose, it will stay banished until Canadians stop electing bleeding-heart Liberals
              and warm and fuzzy New Democrats.

               It could be argued, and argued beyond a reasonable doubt, that modern technology -
              primarily the advancement of DNA gene printing - would now negate the possibility of a
              wrongful conviction and, therefore, a wrongful execution.

               If the test comes back stating, hypothetically, that there is only one chance in six billion that
              Clifford Olson was not the killer of all those children, meaning the other 5,999,999,999
              people making up the world were absolutely innocent, then society should have no trouble
              setting a date for Olson to pay a visit to the hangman.

               The odds of being wrong are infinitely infinite. There would be no more cock-ups as
              occurred in the cases of Donald Marshall and David Milgaard.

               And Olson, for one, would be gone.

               FIRST-DEGREE MURDER

               To increase his odds, Reynolds is seeking the death penalty only for those involved in
              "aggravated" first-degree murder - meaning murders committed with a great deal of
              forethought and "in a heinous manner that defies human dignity."

               A killer like Clifford Olson would therefore apply, as would St. Catharines sex-killer Paul
              Bernardo. Both stalked their victims, coldly and calculatedly, both tortured their prey and
              both decided to take their victims' lives rather than cut them loose.

               Why should those two murderers still be alive?

               For those who consider hanging to be cruel and unusual punishment, despite the fact a
              well-placed knot brings about a quick, almost painless death (I interviewed Canada's last
              hangman many moons ago), Reynolds would prefer executions to be carried out by lethal

               And he spells it out in Section 746.11 of Bill C-335, which reads: "A sentence of death
              shall be executed by the intravenous injection of sodium thiopental in a quantity and in a
              manner calculated to cause death."

               Reynolds has thought of everything. There are even provisions for convicted killers who
              are pregnant at the time their execution is scheduled.

               Their deaths would simply be postponed until the baby was born - and then, goodbye

               Not very Christmassy, is it?

               Well, not to worry. It will never fly.

               Back in 1987, for example, Don Mazankowski tried to get capital punishment reinstated,
              but his motion was defeated by a vote of 148-127.

               Unlike John Reynolds, who is a mere opposition backbencher from the West Coast,
              Mazankowski was then deputy prime minister of the ruling Tories.

               If Maz couldn't do it with the clout he then carried in the House of Commons, Reynolds
              has no chance at all - regardless of his timing, and regardless of all the future Clifford
              Olsons of this world.

               This is unfortunate.

               For many Canadians, it wouldn't have been such a bad present.

              Bonokoski is Sun Media's national affairs columnist and appears Tuesdays,
              Thursdays, Sundays. He can be emailed at

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