All Canadians have rights, including murderers like Quebec mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette, and they also have the capacity to be rehabilitated, the convicted killer’s lawyer argued Wednesday.
The Crown wants Bissonnette to serve a 150-year prison term but his defence team says he should be eligible for parole after 25 years.
After two days of sentencing arguments, the courtroom debate shifted Wednesday to whether the trial judge should be able to hand Bissonnette consecutive sentences.
Bissonnette, 28, pleaded guilty earlier this year to six charges of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder after he walked into a mosque in the provincial capital in January 2017 and opened fire.
A single first-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Francois Huot, however, can use section Section 745.51 of the Criminal Code, and multiply the sentence for one murder conviction by six — representing the six men Bissonnette murdered — and send the young man to prison for 150 years.
Bissonnette’s defence team has tabled a motion in court asking the trial judge to declare Section 745.51 unconstitutional and invalid.
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Defence lawyer Charles-Olivier Gosselin argued Section 745.51 — a part of the code since 2011 — contravenes Article 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects citizens from cruel and unusual treatment.
“It (Section 745.51) denies outright the possibility of humanity for a person,” he told Huot on Wednesday.
“Without hope, what is the meaning of a life? There isn’t any.”
Bissonnette was shackled, dressed in black and given permission by the judge to remove his handcuffs and take notes.
Holding Bissonnette behind bars for the rest of his life and “throwing away the key” would have a disastrous effect on him, given his young age, Gosselin said.
The defence lawyer cited studies about prisoners’ life expectancy and suicide risk.
Gosselin was also critical of the Stephen Harper government, which was responsible for changing the Criminal Code to allow consecutive prison terms, describing the reforms as “penal populism.”
“The system before 2011 was working,” Gosselin said, suggesting the new law was not “well thought out” and was a “political slogan.”
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