A new exhibit in Quebec City aims to educate people about the history of the death penalty in Quebec. An immersive experience at the Morrin Centre transports visitors back in time and into the middle of a real trial.
The Morrin Centre is now Quebec City’s English cultural hub, but it has a much darker history.
“Public executions have long been linked with this building,” said Barry McCullough, the executive director of the Morrin Centre.
“The Quebec Common Jail was housed in the Morrin Centre from 1812 until 1867 and during that time there were 16 hangings, eight of which were for theft and the other eight of which were for murder,” he explained.
The new exhibit explores this history through the real life story of one convicted murderer, William Pounden.
“It takes us through the crime, the accusation, the trial, and ultimately the hanging,” McCullough said.
Pounden, an Irishman who worked as a labourer in Quebec City was accused of violently killing his mother-in-law. He spent 133 days imprisoned in the Quebec common jail. After lengthy deliberation, the jury found him guilty and he was hanged on October 18, 1823.
“As many as 8000 people came to watch that,” said Philippe Martin, the Morrin Centre heritage coordinator.
As surprising as it might seem, Martin said public executions always drew big crowds. He explained that executions began after the British Conquest and 300 people, including eight women were given the death penalty in Quebec.
“The last execution in Canada was in 1962 and the last in the province of Quebec was in 1960,” he said.
Capital punishment was officially abolished in Canada in 1976.