Supreme Court to rule on Quebec City mosque murderer's sentence May 27

Canada's highest court is set to rule on the constitutionality of consecutive life sentences for the gunman who murdered six people at a Quebec City mosque in 2017.

The Supreme Court of Canada announced Thursday a decision will be rendered on May 27 in the case of Alexandre Bissonnette. The 31-year-old pleaded guilty in 2018 to 12 charges, including six counts of first-degree murder, in relation to the attack at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec, the province's largest mosque. 

Bissonnette, who was 27 at the time of the killings, was originally sentenced in 2019 to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 40 years. The judge relied on a revised law in 2011 that gave judges discretion to impose sentences one after the other rather than concurrently. That would mean the sentencing judge could have technically imposed a 150-year-sentence for parole ineligibility in Bissonnette's case.

Believing that such a sentence would be "cruel and unusual" punishment, he imposed concurrent sentences of no parole for 25 years for five of the six murders and on the sixth murder count, he added another 15, bringing the total to 40 years.

Both the Crown and the defence appealed the sentence. The Quebec Court of Appeal agreed with the Superior Court judge that consecutive sentencing was a violation of the Charter, but ruled that the judge erred in rewriting the law by allowing a 40-year period for parole eligibility.

The panel of judges on the appeal court finally ruled last year that the appropriate sentence would be what the law allowed for before the 2011 amendment by the Stephen Harper government, which meant Bissonnette can apply for parole after serving 25 years.

Quebec's Attorney General appealed the ruling to the country's highest court. Prosecutors argued before the Supreme Court in March, saying that preventing Bissonnette from seeking parole after just 25 does not fit the severity of the crimes he committed. They asked for it to be raised to 50 years, when Bissonnette would be 77 years old. 

The killing of six Muslim men during evening prayers on Jan. 29, 2017 sent shockwaves throughout Canada. The victims of the massacre were Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42, Abdelkrim Hassane, 41, Khaled Belkacemi, 60, Aboubaker Thabti, 44, Azzeddine Soufiane, 57, and Ibrahima Barry, 39.

-- This is a developing story that will be updated.

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