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MICRO-HISTORIES

Microhistories: Last Hanging at Don Jail

Execution at Don Jail Toronto star-telegram

(Image Source: Toronto Public Library Historical Newspapers/Toronto Star-Telegram)

The Toronto execution that brought an end to capital punishment in Canada.

O n December 11, 1962, two men—Ronald Turpin, 29, and Arthur Lucas, 54—were hanged at the Don Jail in what would be the final official act of Capital punishment in Canadian history.

Though far from ideal by today’s standards, the Don Jail represented a step forward in the accommodation of the incarcerated. Dubbed the “Palace for Prisoners”, the building overlooked the Don River and at the time stood at Toronto’s city limits, far from the clamour of downtown Toronto. While more “humane”, executions continued at the Don Jail and across the country.

The executions prompted a major backlash among locals and prison reform advocates across the country, culminating in a violent protest at the jail on the night of the executions involving over 200 people. Following the hanging, many public officials and Canadian residents called for an immediate end to Capital punishment.

Execution at Don Jail Toronto star-telegram

(Image Source: City of Toronto Archives)

Both convicted murderers, Ronald Turpin was found guilty of killing a police officer on Danforth Ave., while Arthur Lucas, a native of Detroit, was sentenced to death for the murder of a police informant in Toronto.

Following the hanging, Harold Winch of the NDP introduced a bill to end capital punishment in Canada. The following year, Lester B.Pearson and the Liberal Party announced policy changes indefinitely shutting down capital punishment in Canada. Only in 1976 did Canada legally prohibit capital punishment with the passing of bill c-84.

Execution at Don Jail Toronto star-telegram

(Image Source: Toronto Public Library Historical Newspapers/Toronto Star-Telegram)

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