Alexandre Bissonnette: Sentence by Quebec City mosque shooter was unconstitutional, Supreme Court rules

Canada’s highest court has ruled that Alexandre Bissonnette, who murdered six people in Quebec’s mosque in 2017, will be eligible for parole after 25 years.

The unanimous ruling, handed down by Canada’s Supreme Court on Friday, ruled that imposing consecutive parolees in cases of multiple first-degree murder is unconstitutional.

The court said it must “immediately invalidate” a provision in the Criminal Code passed by Stephen Harper’s administration in 2011 that allowed judges to impose consecutive parolees in cases involving mass murderers rather than simultaneously serving them. to impose.

“The conclusion that imposing consecutive 25-year injunctions is unconstitutional should not be seen as a devaluation of the life of every innocent victim,” the Supreme Court wrote in its decision.

“Everyone agrees that multiple homicides are inherently despicable acts and are the most serious crimes, with consequences that last forever. This appeal is not about the value of every human life, but rather the limits to the state’s power to deter offenders. punishments, which, in a society based on the rule of law, should be exercised in a manner consistent with the Constitution.”

Bissonnette was 27 when, on January 29, 2017, he stormed the Center Culturel Islamique de Quebec, the province’s largest mosque, killing six worshipers during evening prayers and seriously injuring five others. The six murder victims were Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42, Abdelkrim Hassane, 41, Khaled Belkacemi, 60, Aboubaker Thabti, 44, Azzeddine Soufiane, 57, and Ibrahima Barry, 39.

The mosque said it was disappointed by the ruling, saying in a statement that it “does not take into account the atrocities and plague of multiple murders, as well as the hateful Islamophobic and racist aspect of the crime.

While we welcome this decision by the highest court in the country, it is the end of this legal chapter and we want to focus on the future now and now.”

Mohamed Labidi, co-founder and former president of the Quebec City mosque, told reporters in Quebec City Friday morning that he had preferred the original 40-year unconditional release because it reduced the “cruelty of the situation” in balanced with constitutional concerns.

“Our deepest concern is for the orphans who will see the murdered person on the roads of Quebec City 25 years after this tragedy,” Labidi said.

The Supreme Court also underlined that Bissonnette’s crimes were “horrific crimes” that were “of unspeakable horror and left deep and painful scars on the heart of the Muslim community and of Canadian society as a whole.”


The landmark ruling is one that has been closely watched as it will affect all perpetrators convicted of multiple first degree murders in the future, including those currently on trial.

Bisonnette was originally sentenced to life in prison in 2019 without being eligible for 40 years parole. The judge relied on a revised law in 2011 that gave judges the freedom to impose sentences sequentially rather than simultaneously. That would mean that the sentencing judge could technically have imposed a 150-year prison term for ineligibility for parole in Bissonnette’s case.

Believing that such a sentence would be a “cruel and unusual” sentence, he imposed concurrent 25-year sentences without parole for five of the six murders. On the sixth murder count, he added another 15, bringing the total to 40 years.

Both the Crown and the defense appealed the verdict. Quebec’s Court of Appeals agreed with the Supreme Court judge that consecutive convictions were a Charter violation, but ruled the judge erred in rewriting the law by allowing a 40-year term. ​for eligibility for parole.

The appeals court panel of judges finally ruled last year that the appropriate sentence would be what the law allowed before the 2011 amendment, meaning Bissonnette can apply for parole after 25 years.

Quebec’s Attorney General has appealed the ruling to the country’s highest court. In March, prosecutors before the Supreme Court argued that it does not reflect the gravity of the crimes he has committed. They asked for it to be raised to 50, when Bissonnette would be 77 years old.


But such verdicts would have discredited the judiciary, according to the Supreme Court’s 92-page judgment.

“They are intrinsically incompatible with human dignity because of their degrading nature, since they deny the perpetrators any moral autonomy by depriving them in advance and definitively of any possibility of reintegration into society,” the ruling said.

“Life sentences without a realistic chance of parole could also have devastating consequences for offenders, who have no incentive to rehabilitate themselves and whose incarceration ends only when they die.”

Friday’s Supreme Court ruling upheld the lower court’s decision, meaning Bissonnette will be eligible for parole if he’s in his 50s.


Steven Slimovitch, a criminal defense attorney based in Montreal, said the Supreme Court dealt “a new blow” to the former Harper administration by repealing the 2011 Criminal Code amendment.

“The whole idea of ​​putting one life sentence on another so you could essentially have 100, 120, 150 years is completely un-Canadian in my opinion,” Slimovitch said, adding that he agrees. the concept of warehousing. “criminals for decades.

In cases of first-degree murder, getting full parole is extremely rare, he said.

“It’s unheard of,” Slimovitch said.

“You qualify, [but] you won’t get it the first few times because chances are you haven’t met what the probation commission deems a requirement. While it’s true, you qualify… you may get a very limited parole, but not a full parole.”

Supreme Court of Canada ruling on Alexandre Bissonnette

— This is a news item. More to come.

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