Actually, there is no single claimant to the title of last person executed in Canada. That's because of the fact that when the hangman pulled the lever in the early hours of December 11, 1962, there were actually two men dangling from the end of a rope.

Between Confederation in 1867 and the abolishment of capital punishment in 1976, it is estimated that approximately 705 people were executed in Canada, including 11 women. Although the death penalty could be applied to those convicted of the crimes of rape, murder, or treason, only Louis Rielexecuted for treason in 1885 — was executed for a crime other than murder. In 1961, John Diefenbaker's Tories changed the criminal code such that only the crimes of capital murder — defined as murder that was planned and deliberate, and which occurred during certain acts of violence — and the murder of prison wardens or police officers were punishable by hanging.

On November 17, 1961, less than two months after these legal changes took place, Therland Carter, an FBI informant and a material witness in an American narcotics case, was murdered in Toronto. A second person, Carol Newman, was unlucky enough to be in the same room as Carter, and was also murdered. Arthur Lucas, a 54 year old resident of Detroit, was found guilty of the murders and sentenced to death.

Three months later, Toronto police officer Frederick Nash had the misfortune of pulling over 29 year old Ronald Turpin for a routine traffic violation. Wanted for questioning in a prior shooting incident, and having just robbed a local restaurant, Turpin panicked and shot Nash with a .32 calibre handgun. Arrested while trying to escape in the officer's patrol car, Turpin was found guilty of capital murder and, like Carter, was sentenced to hang by the neck until dead.

In December of 1962, despite gathered protesters and last minute appeals for clemency, Carter and Turpin were escorted down the corridor of death row in Toronto's Don Jail and into infamy. In 1967 the criminal code was changed so that only the murder of police officers or prison guards was punishable by death, and with the 1976 decision of Pierre Elliott Trudeau's Liberal government to completely abolish the death penalty, Carter and Turpin's place in history was cemented.



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