Government Documents

If government documents exist regarding the Gagnon affair, it is because a sentence of death was pronounced against Marie-Anne Houde. In Canada, before capital punishment was abolished, when such a sentence was pronounced it was automatically reviewed by the Federal Minister of Justice. All documents pertaining to the case in question were therefore transmitted to the Federal Government for the purposes of this review. All files of this type are kept in the National Archives in Ottawa in the "Capital Case Files" fonds (RG 13).

Copies of the same depositions as those available at the National Archives of Quebec -- of which you can consult a selection via our "virtual archives" -- are found in the federal file pertaining to Marie-Anne Houde's case. This file also includes, among other things, judicial documents regarding the commutation of the death sentence and the possible release of Marie-Anne Houde, the letters and petitions from the public for or against this commutation and this release, as well as the correspondence between Marie-Anne Houde and the Minister of Justice or the Remission Service.

These documents are highly fascinating in respect to Marie-Anne Houde herself. In reading the letters she wrote in order to obtain her release, we discover a heretofore unsuspected facet of this woman, who presents herself in her correspondence as a mother attentive to the needs and the well-being of her children. Moreover, the reports of the Kingston prison guard portray her as a model prisoner.

The file concerning Marie-Anne Houde's death sentence is divided into three volumes that contain no obvious classification or internal logical. The documents come in either handwritten or typewritten form. They are sometimes institutional or governmental forms, telegrams or personal notes. Such sources allow us to become acquainted with the ideologies and the motivations of the people who wrote the government to request the commutation of Marie-Anne Houde's sentence, as well as of those who disagreed with this commutation. At the same time, they highlight the different stages of an application for release and enable us to understand the personal, administrative and even political stakes of such an application, particularly when it is question of a "famous case."