OTTAWA: Canada’s Supreme Court on Friday (May 27) upheld a decision by a lower court to accelerate parole for the man convicted of shooting six people at a mosque in 2017 and considered a 2011 law prohibiting long-term parole. convictions as unconstitutional.
Canada’s highest court ruled in the case against a 2020 decision by a Quebec court to reduce Alexandre Bissonnette’s parole to 25 years from the original sentence, causing him to wait much longer for parole.
The issue at stake was a 2011 law that allowed judges to bar convicts from seeking parole for multiple 25-year terms, based on the number of murders committed.
The Supreme Court said such a sentence removes a realistic possibility of parole, calling it “incompatible with human dignity”.
“It is humiliating in nature because, at the time of imposition, it presupposes that the perpetrator is beyond rescue and lacks the moral autonomy necessary for rehabilitation,” the highest court said in the verdict.
The court overturned the law from the time it went into effect, meaning that people who have already been sentenced to a waiting period of 50 years or more without qualifying for a probation are eligible.
Bissonnette, 32, pleaded guilty to six counts of first degree murder and six counts of attempted murder for the 2017 attack on members of a Quebec City mosque in one of Canada’s rare mass shootings.
He was sentenced to life with eligibility for parole after 40 years behind bars in 2019 before an appeals court in Quebec reduced that and described the original sentence as “cruel and unusual”.
At the time of the attack, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the shooting as an act of terrorism. The judge in the original trial said Bissonnette’s actions — entering the mosque after prayer and shooting congregation members — were motivated by prejudice, particularly towards Muslim immigrants.
Mass shootings are rare in Canada, where gun laws are stricter than in the United States.
The firearms homicide rate in Canada is 0.5 per 100,000 people, much lower than the US figure of 4.12, according to a 2021 analysis by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.