Canada's Supreme Court set to decide fate of Quebec City mosque shooter

Canada's Supreme Court set to decide fate of Quebec City mosque shooter
Canada's Supreme Court set to decide fate of Quebec City mosque shooter 27 May 2022 06:16 AM: In a ruling that could set a sentencing benchmark for the most serious crimes in the country, the Supreme Court of Canada is set to announce the number of years the gunman who killed six people in a Quebec City mosque will have to spend in prison before becoming eligible for parole.

Alexandre Bissonnette pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder for his attack on worshippers at the Islamic Cultural Centre on Jan. 29, 2017.

In deciding the minimum number of years Bissonnette should spend in prison before he is eligible for parole, nine justices with the Supreme Court of Canada examined the constitutionality of a sentencing provision introduced in 2011 by Stephen Harper's Conservative government.

That provision gave judges discretionary powers to hand out consecutive blocks of parole ineligibility periods for multiple first-degree murders.

Shortly after Bissonnette's guilty plea in 2018, Crown prosecutors had asked that his parole ineligibility period be set at 150 years — 25 years for each person he murdered.

It would have been the harshest Canadian sentence handed down since the abolition of the death penalty.

Instead, he was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 40 years — the longest period of parole ineligibility ever imposed in Quebec.

That decision was overturned in November 2020 by a unanimous ruling by the Quebec Court of Appeal, which reduced Bissonnette's wait for parole eligibility to 25 years.

Crown prosecutors are now asking that Bissonnette wait 50 years before being eligible for parole.

Six men died in the attack on the Quebec Mosque. They are, clockwise from top left, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Azzeddine Soufiane, Abdelkrim Hassane, Ibrahima Barry, Aboubaker Thabti and Khaled Belkacemi. (CBC)

Before making their decision, the Supreme Court justices had to determine if prolonging a person's stint in prison by stacking consecutive blocks of parole ineligibility violates the following sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

  • Section 12, which states that "everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment."
  • Section 7, which states that "everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice."

The justices could also conclude that a violation is justified under Section 1 of the Charter, which subjects rights and freedoms to "reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."

Friday's ruling could alter the fate of other convicted murderers such as Justin Bourque, who is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 75 years for killing three RCMP officers in Moncton, N.B., in 2014.

The Supreme Court decision will be made public shortly before 10 a.m. ET. 

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