Alexandre Bissonnette, the man convicted of fatally shooting six Muslims at a mosque in Quebec back in 2017, will now be able to apply for parole in 25 years. This reduced sentence occurred amidst the province’s highest court ruling today that the section of the Criminal Code allowing consecutive life sentences is unconstitutional.
The Quebec Court of Appeal has struck down consecutive sentences such as Bissonnette’s – who was sentenced in 2019 to life imprisonment without parole for 40 years – as they are perceived to violate protections against “cruel and unusual” punishment in Canada. The panel wrote that “while a decision to set parole eligibility at 100 or more years may give some people a sense of satisfaction,” it is “grossly disproportionate” because it exceeds the person’s expected lifespan.
“It contemplates a possibility that will never be able to come to fruition,” the panel noted. “This is why the provision is absurd and constitutes an attack on human dignity.”
Reception to the ruling has been negative from Muslim groups. “Disappointment is the word that comes to our lips,” said Boufeldja Benabdallah, spokesperson for the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec.
In an al-Jazeera interview with the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), representative Yusuf Faqiri reported that the decision reflected a “fundamental double-standard.”
“Our hearts are breaking,” said Faqiri. “It’s as if their lives had less value than the rest of the population. The question that all Quebec Muslims are asking today is whether the blood of Quebec Muslims [means] less.”
Back in March 2018, Bissonnette pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder. His victims included Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42; Ibrahima Barry, 39; Khaled Belkacemi, 60; Abdelkrim Hassane, 41; Azzeddine Soufiane, 57, and Aboubaker Thabti, 44. Five others were injured in the shooting.