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Quebec to seek leave to appeal mosque shooter sentence at Supreme Court

·2 min read

Quebec is seeking leave to appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada a lower court decision that reduced the sentence of convicted mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette.

In a joint statement Friday, Quebec's attorney general and the director of criminal prosecutions announced their decision to appeal, adding they wouldn't make any further comments "out of respect for the ongoing legal process."

The province's highest court in November reduced the killer's life sentence from 40 years in prison before chance at parole, to 25 years.

In 2019, a Quebec Superior Court justice rewrote a 2011 law that granted courts the right to impose consecutive sentences in blocks of 25 years for multiple murders, declaring that the law amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Justice Francois Huot instead handed Bissonnette a sentence of 40 years.

The Court of Appeal agreed with Huot that consecutive sentencing violated the Charter, but decided the lower court judge erred in granting the killer a 40-year sentence, instead opting for 25 years.

The appeals court also struck down the section of the Criminal Code that allowed cumulative sentences, declaring it unconstitutional.

"This judgment is not about the horror of the actions taken by Alexandre Bissonnette on Jan. 29, 2017, or even about the impact of his crimes on an entire community and society in general, but above all, on the constitutionality of a provision of the Criminal Code," the Court of Appeal wrote in a 41-page unanimous judgment.

Bissonnette pleaded guilty in March 2018 to six counts of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder, following the 2017 mosque attack in Quebec City. In less than two minutes, Bissonnette shot the six men dead when he stormed the mosque, armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a pistol, leaving six widows and 17 orphans in his wake.

His murder victims were Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42; Abdelkrim Hassane, 41; Khaled Belkacemi, 60; Aboubaker Thabti, 44; Azzeddine Soufiane, 57; and Ibrahima Barry, 39. In addition to the men killed, five others were struck by bullets.

Usually, the Supreme Court takes about 10 to 12 weeks to decide whether it will accept to hear an appeal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021.

Caroline Plante, The Canadian Press