Deadline nearing to file appeal of Bissonnette's sentence for mosque murders

Crown prosecutors and defence lawyers have less than a week left to decide whether to appeal the sentence handed down to the gunman who killed six men in a Quebec City mosque.

Alexandre Bissonnette, 29, was sentenced on Feb. 8 to life in prison without possibility of parole for 40 years. On Jan. 29, 2017, Bissonnette stormed into the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre and opened fire, killing six worshippers.

He received the harshest prison sentence ever in Quebec and one of the longest in Canada, which since a 2011 Criminal Code reform has allowed consecutive life sentences for multiple murders.

But it was well under the six consecutive life sentences -- 150 years before being eligible for parole -- sought by the Crown.

In a letter issued after the sentencing, Bissonnette's parents called their son's sentence "very severe" and said the Crown's proposed sentence encouraged a desire for revenge.

The six life sentences were automatic after he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, but the defence had asked that they be served concurrently, meaning he would have been eligible for parole in 25 years.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Francois Huot rejected the Crown's call to sentence Bissonnette to 150 years with no chance of parole, arguing a sentence of 50 years or more would constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But instead of sentencing Bissonnette to serve the six sentences concurrently, Huot rewrote the 2011 consecutive sentencing law so he could deliver consecutive life sentences that are not in blocks of 25 years, as had been the case. That was how he arrived at the 40-year total.

Lawyers for Bissonnette did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The office of Quebec Attorney General Sonia LeBel said that a decision will be made no later than March 11, the date when the 30-day period to file an appeal ends.