QUEBEC – The man who shot dead six worshippers in a Quebec City mosque in 2017 must serve 40 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
Alexandre Bissonnette, 29, pleaded guilty last March to six counts of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder.
The Crown had recommended that his six life sentences be served consecutively, which would have totalled 150 years. The defence had argued the sentences should be served concurrently, making him eligible for parole after 25 years.
The Criminal Code was amended in 2011 to allow a judge to impose consecutive sentences in cases of multiple murder. Several of the survivors and the victims’ families had argued for a sentence longer than 25 years, noting the heinous nature of the crime and the lasting trauma it caused for the Muslim community.
In a decision that took nearly six hours to read, Huot said a sentence of 50 years or more would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
The longest prison sentence in Canada to date is 75 years without parole, which has been given to at least five triple killers since the law was changed in 2011 to allow consecutive sentences.
Huot told Bissonnette to leave the prisoners’ box and stand in front of him as he began reading his decision. The judge said the day of the murders “will forever be written in blood in the history of this city, this province, this country.”
He called the shooting attack premeditated, gratuitous and insidious.
Bissonnette, 29, pleaded guilty last March to six counts of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder after he walked into the mosque at the Islamic Cultural Centre during evening prayers on Jan. 29, 2017 and opened fire. The murder victims were Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42; Abdelkrim Hassane, 41; Khaled Belkacemi, 60; Aboubaker Thabti, 44; Azzeddine Soufiane, 57; and Ibrahima Barry, 39.
All 250 seats in the courtroom were filled, with a section reserved for members of Quebec City’s Muslim community. Bissonnette’s parents were also present.
Several people in the room wept as the judge read a second-by-second account of the shooter’s actions on the night of the crime. Two women left the room in tears as Huot described how Bissonnette approached Soufiane as he lay on the ground, already wounded, and fired another bullet into his head.