Minimum terms and multiple murders | The Supreme Court hears the case of Alexandre Bissonnet

(OTTAWA) The Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday weighed the constitutionality of the Quebec mosque murderer’s constitutionality and, more broadly, the controversial Harp-era provision of extremely long prison terms.

Published at 14:14
Updated at 15:17.

Gabriel Beland

Gabriel Beland

“The sentence will play a role if it makes sense, if it can be carried out. Doesn’t a sentence that cannot be carried out discredit the penitentiary system and the criminal justice system? asked Chief Justice of Canada Richard Wagner during the hearing.

The country’s highest court became interested in the case of Alexandre Bissonnet at the request of the Attorney General of Quebec. His decision, which will be made in the coming months, is eagerly awaited in Canadian criminal law circles. This will affect the killer from the mosque, as well as the other numerous killers.

The Crown requires life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 50 years. Instead, Bissonnette’s lawyers are asking for his release from prison after 25 years, if the Parole Board of Canada decides so.

“There is no other way to reflect the seriousness of Mr Bissonnette’s actions other than to extend it to 50 years,” Ms well as François Gaudin, Crown Prosecutor. “In the case of Mr. Bissonnette, reintegration and rehabilitation should, in our opinion, be secondary,” he added, emphasizing the seriousness of the crimes.

An assassin broke into the Grand Mosque of Quebec in January 2017, where he opened fire, killing six and seriously injuring several. “This is a hate-motivated crime,” well as Godin. His only regret is that he didn’t kill more people”, and had his semi-automatic weapon not jammed, he could easily have killed “50 or 60 people”.

But Judge Wagner seemed skeptical. Does a 50-year hard sentence respect the principle of rehabilitation? The killer would then have been 77 years old.

“It is known from statistics that criminals who are in long-term prisons die on average at the age of 61,” said Judge Wagner. Isn’t it too little to say that he has a chance for rehabilitation at 77? »

“Death Penalty in Prison”

Bissonnet’s sentence to life in prison without the possibility of release for 50 years constitutes a “death sentence in prison,” Ms well as Erin Dunn of the Royal Prison Law Clinic.

“We cannot determine 50 years ahead whether a person will be rehabilitated or not,” said the killer’s lawyer, well as Charles Olivier Gosselin.

Judge Wagner summed up the issue this way: “Part of our core values ​​of justice is denunciation, protection, security, and rehabilitation.”

The issue was less acute until 2011, when the maximum sentence was life imprisonment without the possibility of release for 25 years. But that same year, the government of Stephen Harper introduced section 745.51. It was aimed at ending “sentence discounts for multiple murders”. This allows for multiplied prison sentences for those who kill more than one person.

In recent years, sentences of up to 75 years in prison have been handed down in Canada. In the case of Bissonnette, who was theoretically entitled to 150 years in prison, the trial judge sentenced him to 40 years in prison. The Court of Appeal overturned the decision, finding that these extremely long sentences were unconstitutional, and imposed 25 years in prison.

Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Moldaver, appointed by Stephen Harper, meanwhile has hinted that he is ready to rewrite the controversial provision to give the courts more leeway.

He cited the example of a mother who killed her four children “because she is depressed, desperate, because of her husband’s physical and psychological abuse.”

“It’s a little different from a case like this where we have multiple murderers involved in hate crimes against a vulnerable and marginalized group who show no remorse and keep reloading their weapons,” he said.

“I think Parliament has reason to say, ‘You know what Judge, you can extend the sentence to 5 years for each murder, to a maximum of X, say 40 years… with that? »

The Supreme Court accepted the case for consideration.

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