Moment of truth for Alexandre Bissonnette

The highest court in the country will hear, tomorrow, one of the most awaited cases in its history with the hearing concerning the sentence which should be imposed on the author of the attack on the Quebec mosque.

This is an “important” step for the Muslim community of Quebec, but also for all future perpetrators of multiple murders in Canada as well as their victims.

In 2011, the Conservative government ended “sentencing discounts” for multiple murders, by amending a Criminal Code provision that now allows the 25-year ineligibility periods before parole to be added together for each murder victim. . However, judges have interpreted section 745.51 in different ways for a decade.

For example, Justin Bourque, who killed three RCMP officers in cold blood in Moncton in 2014, is serving a 75-year prison sentence. Conversely, Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur will be given the opportunity to seek parole after 25 years in custody, despite killing eight men.

Ironically, Bruce McArthur’s life sentence was handed down on February 9, 2019, the same day Judge François Huot sentenced Alexandre Bissonnette to life in prison without the possibility of release for 40 years. , under the same section of the Criminal Code.

Deeming it unconstitutional, Judge Huot then took the liberty of rewriting the law to make section 745.51 consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is this decision, reduced to 25 years by the Court of Appeal, which will now be debated before the Supreme Court tomorrow.

All this legal debate weighs heavily on the Muslim community of Quebec, which must plunge back each time into the horror of January 29, 2017.

During this sad evening, Alexandre Bissonnette weighed 48 times on the trigger of his pistol to kill six members of the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec, injure eight other victims and make 17 orphans.

The former president of the mosque, Mohamed Labidi, confirms all the same that this audience is “awaited” by his community and that the day will be important.

“We’re going to follow this closely, it’s the big day we’ve been waiting for,” he anticipates.

The latter does not want to “criticize the judges” who have considered the issue before, but wants a clear decision at the end of the process. “We want the Supreme Court to decide either for an accumulation, or for a maximum, 50 years for example”, he said without the figure being perceived as a request.

Mr. Labidi also insists that the community “will live with the decision of the Supreme Court”. The National Council of Canadian Muslims will make representations to this effect tomorrow before the nine judges.

He is one of the participants among the twenty or so interveners who submitted a brief and who will be heard in Ottawa, including the attorneys general of five provinces, a group of relatives of victims and police associations who will try to convince the judges.

Long legal saga

  • Alexandre Bissonnette | 27 years old at the time of the crime, in January 2017
  • March 28, 2018 | The accused pleaded guilty to 12 counts, including 6 of first degree murder.
  • February 8, 2019 | The judge of the Superior Court of Quebec, François Huot, declares section 745.51 of the Criminal Code unconstitutional, rewrites the law and condemns the accused to a 40-year sentence.
  • November 26, 2020 | The Quebec Court of Appeal also declares section 745.51 unconstitutional, deeming the provision “absurd”. It reduces the sentence to 25 years in prison.
  • May 27, 2021 | The Supreme Court agrees to hear the appeal of the Attorney General of Quebec on the sentence.
  • March 24, 2022 | Supreme Court of Canada Hearing

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