Attorney General of Quebec, et al. v. Alexandre Bissonnette
(Quebec) (Criminal) (By Leave)
Canadian charter (Criminal) - Constitutional law, Criminal law, Cruel and unusual treatment or punishment (s. 12), Right to life, liberty and security of person (s. 7) - Charter of Rights and Freedoms — Constitutional law — Criminal law — Cruel and unusual treatment or punishment — Right to life, liberty and security of person — Accused pleading guilty on six counts of first degree murder and six counts of attempted murder — Accused challenging constitutional validity of provision allowing judge to add one 25-year period before eligibility for parole for each first degree murder — Whether s. 745.51 of Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, infringes s. 7 of Charter — Whether it infringes s. 12 of Charter — If so, whether it constitutes reasonable limit prescribed by law that can be demonstrably justified in free and democratic society under s. 1 of Charter - Whether 50-year period of ineligibility for parole is just and appropriate punishment in this case — Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, ss. 1, 7, 12 - Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, s. 745.51.
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On the evening of January 29, 2017, the respondent, Mr. Bissonnette, who was 27 years old at the time, left home with two firearms and ammunition and headed to the Great Mosque of Québec. On arriving there, he fired on the worshippers who were present. He pleaded guilty on 12 counts, including six of first degree murder. Before the sentencing judge, the respondent challenged the constitutional validity of s. 745.51 of the Criminal Code, a provision under which, in the event of multiple murders, a judge may, in addition to imposing a life sentence, order parole ineligibility periods, to be served consecutively, of 25 years for each murder. The sentencing judge concluded that the section in question infringes ss. 12 and 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that the limits on the protected rights had not been shown to be justified in a free and democratic society. He found that the appropriate remedy would be to read in a new wording that would allow a court to impose consecutive periods of less than 25 years. The Quebec Court of Appeal reached the same conclusions as regards the constitutionality of the provision, but it was of the view that the constitutional incompatibility identified by the sentencing judge goes to the very heart of the provision and that reading in is therefore not appropriate. It accordingly declared that s. 745.51 of the Criminal Code is invalid and of no force or effect. As a consequence, it ordered a total period of parole ineligibility of 25 years in this case.
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