Alexandre Bissonnette, who stormed into a Quebec City mosque and opened fire, killing six, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 40 years.
The sentence outraged many, including the families of the six victims. Canadian law allowed the judge to sentence Bissonnette to consecutive terms, which would have kept him in jail for the rest of his natural life.
But the judge said the “punishment is not vengeance” and allowed for the possibility for parole.
Bissonnette was known for his far-right views and there is worry in Canada that the less than maximum sentence will embolden the right.
Under Canadian law, Mr. Bissonnette could have gone to prison for 150 years — or 25 years for each of the six deaths. While underscoring the brutality of the attack, Justice François Huot of Quebec Superior Court suggested that such a harsh sentence would be excessive by denying the defendant the hope of ever leaving prison.
But Muslim leaders, including the mosque’s president, Mohamed Labidi, said they were deeply disappointed by Justice Huot’s sentence, saying it did not do justice to a horrific crime.
“This rampage left children without parents, destroyed lives, and this man can be free after 40 years?” he asked with incredulity. “We are very disheartened and upset.”
Justice Huot announced the sentence after a hearing of more than five hours, during which he gave a minute-by-minute account of the rampage, which he said was “premeditated, gratuitous and abject” and motivated by “visceral hatred toward Muslims.”
Several family members of victims sobbed.
Legal scholars said his decision was likely to be challenged on appeal and could end up before Canada’s Supreme Court. And once there, they said, it could become a seminal test of the constitutionality of consecutive life sentences.
Spending the rest of your life in prison for killing six people should have been the minimum sentence. It has nothing to do with “punishment” or “vengeance.” It has to do with justice. True justice would have seen Bissonnette executed. But Canada, an “enlightened” country, outlawed the death penalty in 1976.
One legal scholar, a human rights lawyer, twisted himself into logic knots to agree with the judge:
“Sentencing in cases of multiple murders are supposed to bear in mind the principles of retribution and denunciation,” he said.
Referring to the sentence the prosecution wanted, he added, “You could argue that 150 years is tantamount to a death sentence and we abolished capital punishment.”
No, sitting in prison getting three hots and a cot is not a “death sentence.” Bissonnette carried out a death sentence on six people. The murderer will live relatively comfortably, able to breathe, dream, laugh, and cry while his victims will not have that luxury.
The reasons Bissonnette murdered six people are not relevant, despite the media overkill on the subject. He ended the lives of six people. Regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual preference, they didn’t deserve to die.