Minimum terms and multiple murders | Active exchange of views with judges of the Supreme Court

(OTTAWA) Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada spoke out Thursday when they were asked to consider minimum prison sentences for multiple murders in the Quebec Grand Mosque killer case.

Published at 14:14

Michael Saba
Canadian press

“According to your argument, sir, this gentleman will never get out of jail,” which is the equivalent of “the death penalty,” Chief Justice Richard Wagner told prosecutor François Gaudin of the Director of Prosecution and (DPCP).

The country’s highest court is set to rule on the constitutionality of a provision in the Penal Code, added in 2011 under the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, that allows a judge to issue a life sentence and parole for 25 years, to be served consecutively. for every kill.

In doing so, the judges take into account that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms prohibits in Article 12 the use of “cruel and unusual” treatment or punishment.

For the DPCP, the case of Alexandre Bissonnet, who killed six people and attempted to kill six more in a January 2017 attack just after evening prayers, is a “clear case” of fine accumulation.

“There is no other way to reflect the seriousness of the actions taken. […] than to extend the term of “impossibility of parole to 50 years,” said well as Fit in court during the hearing via videoconference.

According to him, in the case of the killer of the great mosque of Quebec, “reintegration and rehabilitation […] should be secondary targets.

Judge Wagner told him that it was “a bit short as an argument”, knowing that offenders die at an average age of 61.

“A message of justice, sent by the judges,” the prosecutor replied. If he pulls himself together in prison, there is a chance that he will be released. I understand that at the age of 77 years. »

A few minutes earlier, there had been a principled debate with a representative of the Quebec Ministry of Justice, Jean-Francois Pare.

He said in his first comments that there was an “inequality” between the period of parole granted to the perpetrator of a single murder and the identical period granted to the murderer of several people.

The Chief Justice reiterated that the death penalty was abolished in Canada in 1976, and that he does not believe that Canadian society considers a person’s life sentence to be acceptable.

“Pardon is part of our core values ​​in sentencing,” he said, and a provision in the Penal Code “prevents it for all intents and purposes (and) effectively constitutes a death sentence of imprisonment.”

Mas well as Pare argued that the legislative aims of the provision are “to better reflect the seriousness of the sentences and tougher penalties for multiple murderers”.

“This is the mechanism that the legislator has chosen,” he insisted.

And “making a sentence impossible” discredits the administration of justice, Judge Nicholas Cassirer sent him.

In response to a question from Judge Russell Brown, a lawyer for the Attorney General of Quebec admitted that “absolutely” 50 years of parole is equivalent to a life sentence.

But the judge delivers “a fair and proportionate sentence, and if not, then there is a court of appeal,” added the lawyer, who was constantly interrupted.

“That’s the problem,” added Judge Mahmoud Jamal. The verdict does not recognize the possibility of rehabilitation. »

And the magistrate’s discretion is “extremely limited,” Judge Suzanne Cote said, as Parliament decided “he will be in office by the age of 25.”

For example, if this provision is constitutional and he believes that parole should occur in 25 years, but less than 50 years – as in the decision of the trial judge in the Grand Mosque of Quebec murder case – he cannot be more than 25 years.

In 2019, a killer from the Grand Mosque of Quebec successfully challenged a law passed in 2011.

The judge found the provision unconstitutional and instead ruled that the killer had to wait 40 years before seeking parole.

The Quebec Court of Appeal held that the sentencing violated the provisions of the Charter of Rights, guarantees of life, liberty and security of the individual, and the prohibition against cruel or unusual punishment.

The Court of Appeal, however, ruled that the court must revert to the pre-2011 law, meaning that parole periods must be served concurrently, resulting in a waiting period of a total of 25 years in the case of a killer. . .

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