Supreme Court of Canada strikes down life without parole for mass murderers in unanimous decision

THE Supreme Court of Canada on Friday unanimously struck down a punishment of life without parole for mass murderers in a unanimous decision. It ruled that the punishment is cruel and unusual and therefore illegal under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The decision is retroactive to 2011 when the law was enacted.
The court was ruling in the case of Alexandre Bissonnette, who killed six Muslims at a Quebec City mosque in 2017.

The National Council of Muslims (NCCM) said in a statement that “Bissonnette’s parole ineligibility period to 25 years will be received with difficulty by many, particularly for those in the community he ravaged on the night of January 29, 2017.” The NCCM had intervener status in this case.

The NCCM said: “Bissonnette had pled guilty to murdering six Muslim worshippers at Quebec City’s Islamic Cultural Centre that night, while injuring and maiming 19 others.

“Friday’s decision rejects an appeal by the Crown to have Bissonnette serve life in prison behind bars. It also alters a section of the Criminal Code of Canada in allowing killers to serve a single 25-year period of parole ineligibility regardless of how many victims there are.

“Whereas offenders like Bissonnette would have had to serve out a 25-year period of parole ineligibility for each person they killed in a mass murder, Friday’s decision reduces that to a single 25-year period regardless of the number of victims killed. Bissonnette will therefore be eligible for parole in 20 years, having already spent five years behind bars”

NCCM CEO Mustafa Farooq said: “Today, we are thinking about the families. Their pain has never fully healed, and their wounds are reopened today as they struggle with the possibility of being among the one who killed their loved ones that night.”

Lina El Bakir, NCCM Quebec Advocacy Officer, said: “The pain, suffering, and anguish he caused with his calculated plan of mass murder will never fully be extinguished for those whose lives he destroyed in Quebec City and beyond. The community in Quebec City will never reach full closure for their loss, particularly knowing that the cause of their pain may return to life among them in 20 years.”

NCCM said that it “stands with the victims, survivors and loved ones of the Quebec City mosque shooting. Their wounds will be re-opened each time Bissonnette appears before the parole board for a chance to leave prison. NCCM is committed to standing with the survivors and families when they appear in front of the parole board in 20 years, and every year after that.”

THE Conservative Party’s Critic for Justice and Attorney General, Rob Moore, and Critic for Public Services and Procurement, Pierre Paul-Hus, said in a statement: “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court of Canada is extremely disappointing and fails to stand up for the rights of victims.

“This decision means that mass murders like Alexandre Bissonnette, a man who senselessly murdered six people in their place of worship, may be free to walk the streets. It means that Justin Bourque, a man who senselessly murdered three RCMP officers in Moncton, may be free to walk the streets.

“This ruling means that families of victims will be forced to sit through years of parole hearings with their family member’s killer, adding to the trauma they face and putting them through another cycle of revictimization.

“Further, this decision fails to recognize the value and rights of victims of these despicable acts, and allows for sentences that simply do not reflect the severity of crimes like mass murders.

“This is unacceptable. Canada’s worst murderers must remain locked behind bars.

“Conservatives are calling on the federal government to use whatever means it has available to them to ensure the perpetrators of mass shootings serve sentences that reflect the severity of their crimes.

“Conservatives will always stand with victims and defend their rights and advocate for legislation that keeps perpetrators of heinous crimes locked behind bars. We will continue to weigh options in response to the court’s ruling today and continue to urge the Liberals to put victims first.”

FEDERAL NDP Deputy Leader, Alexandre Boulerice, said in a statement: “The Quebec City mosque shooting is one of the saddest moments in our country’s history. Six people were killed, and 19 others were injured. These individuals were targeted and killed just because they were Muslim. The Muslim community is still reeling from this horrific attack, and today’s court ruling must be very difficult for them to hear.

“The NDP respects the independence of the Court, but as federal legislators we have a responsibility to take action to tackle hate head-on and to do everything in our power to avoid such a senseless tragedy from happening again.

“Thoughts and prayers are not enough, we must act.

“People deserve to feel safe in their communities. People who face Islamophobia, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination shouldn’t feel alone in this fight. They deserve to know that elected officials are on their side. And today, I want to reiterate that I will always stand with you as we work together toward a fairer, better future for everyone.”