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Canadian senator suggests supplying criminals with rope in jail

Boisvenu says let worst offenders decide for themselves.

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People protest the death penalty in the United States on July 2, 2008, in Paris. Canada is also embroiled in the debate after a Conservative senator suggested letting the worst criminal "assassins" access rope in their jail cells. (MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP/Getty Images)

A Canadian senator whose daughter was killed by a repeat offender suggested supplying prisoners with rope in jail, the Globe and Mail said.

Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, a Conservative senator from Quebec, also said the Canadian justice system spends too much money to house criminals.

“Each assassin should have the right to a rope in his cell to make a decision about his or her life,” Boisvenu said prior to a caucus meeting today.

The comments sparked heated debate in Canada, which abolished the death penalty in 1976 and last executed a prisoner in 1962.

Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel asked the Conservative government in Parliament why one of its senators would reopen the issue.

"What Senator Boisvenu (said) is against the law,” she said, according to CTV News. “You can’t call on people to kill themselves. The death penalty debate has been closed for decades. Why are the Conservatives reopening old debates?”

Suicide in prison is especially sensitive in Canada after two Quebec prisoners killed themselves last month.

More from GlobalPost: US death sentences declined in 2011

Boisvenu said he wasn’t in favor of the death penalty, but suggested it was an option when all hopes of rehabilitation have been exhausted.

“In horrible cases such as (serial killer Clifford) Olson, can we have a reflection on that issue?” he said. “As a society, I think that is something we should discuss,” he said, Postmedia News reported.

Canada is also crippled economically by housing prisoners, Boisvenu said. He suggested deporting criminals such as the Shafia family instead of offering them comfortable prison cells here.

Three members of the polygamous family, immigrants from Afghanistan, were convicted of first-degree murder on Jan. 29 for killing three daughters and the husband’s first wife.

“Their incarceration will cost $10 million to the Canadian government,” Boisvenu said, according to the Globe. “There is an economic problem there, it’s $10 million that won’t be spent elsewhere, that is being spent on criminals.”

Boisvenu later backed down, and apologized to a TV station.

The majority Conservative government is also tabling a wide-ranging bill aimed at opening more prisons and imposing harsh minimum sentences.

The so-called “omnibus crime bill” is expected to cost taxpayers billions, and is the subject of repeated opposition attacks.

“We're talking about the hidden agenda, this is it," NDP MP Francoise Boivin told Postmedia. "They value absolutely nothing about rehabilitation. It's scary."

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggested Boisvenu's comments, made in French, were taken out of context.

Hugo Bernier kidnapped, raped and murdered Boisvenu’s 27-year-old daughter, Julie, in 2007. Three years later, Boisvenu’s youngest daughter Isabelle died in a car crash.

“We all understand that Senator Boisvenu and his family have suffered horribly in the past, we understand his emotions in that regard,” said the Prime Minister, according to the Globe and Mail. “But this government is focused on making sure we protect victims in the future.”

More from GlobalPost: Death penalty decreasing worldwide

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/canada/120201/canadian-senator-suggests-supplying-criminals-rope-jail