Alexandre Bissonnette, a suspect in a shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the court house in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. Sentencing arguments are expected to begin today for the man who murdered six men in a Quebec City mosque in January 2017. Alexandre Bissonnette, 28, pleaded guilty earlier this year to six charges of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL

Mosque killer Bissonnette could receive longest prison term ever in Canada

Alexandre Bissonnette pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder

The man who killed six worshippers inside a Quebec City mosque in 2017 could receive the longest prison sentence in Canadian history when he appears before a judge Friday.

Alexandre Bissonnette, 29, faces a sentence of up to 150 years before being eligible for parole in what is being watched as a possible landmark decision. He will learn his fate at the Quebec City courthouse in a ruling by Superior Court Justice Francois Huot.

Bissonnette pleaded guilty last March to six counts of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder after he walked into the mosque during evening prayers on Jan. 29, 2017 and opened fire.

The charges resulted from his Jan. 29, 2017 attack on the Islamic Cultural Centre that left six men dead: Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42; Abdelkrim Hassane, 41; Khaled Belkacemi, 60; Aboubaker Thabti, 44; Azzeddine Soufiane, 57; and Ibrahima Barry, 39.

Witnesses described the former Universite Laval student entering the mosque and calmly opening fire on the crowd of men who were gathered there for evening prayers.

In addition to the men killed, five other men were struck by bullets, including Aymen Derbali, who was shot seven times and was paralyzed from the waist down. The sixth attempted murder charge related to others who were nearby in the mosque.

The first-degree murder charges carry an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole before 25 years. But under a new provision of the Criminal Code adopted in 2011, a judge can now order that the sentences be served consecutively in cases with multiple victims.

READ MORE: 2 years after Quebec mosque killings, Islamophobia continues to rise

READ MORE: Crown recommends 150 years for Quebec mosque shooter

The Conservative government of the day said the change was needed to bring an end to “discount sentences” for mass murderers.

At Bissonnette’s sentencing hearing, Crown prosecutor Thomas Jacques argued that the six sentences should be served consecutively, totalling 150 years before he could seek parole. He called for a sentence “that reflects the scale of the crimes committed.”

Bissonnette’s lawyers said he should be eligible for parole after 25 years in prison. They called a 150-year sentence the equivalent of a “death sentence by imprisonment” and said it would be “contrary to human dignity.”

They are seeking to have the section of the Criminal Code permitting consecutive sentences declared unconstitutional, arguing that it infringes the protection against cruel and unusual punishment contained in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The defence said even two consecutive sentences would violate the Charter because it would exclude any possibility that the accused could be rehabilitated and re-enter society. Even if the judge decides the sentences should be served concurrently, it does not necessarily mean Bissonnette would walk out of prison after 25 years. That decision would lie with the Parole Board of Canada.

Mohamed Labidi, former president of Quebec City’s Islamic Cultural Centre, said the Muslim community is looking for justice in Friday’s ruling. He said people in the community are “almost unanimous” that serving just 25 years would not be enough considering six people were murdered.

“Every life is important,” he said.

The longest sentence to date in Canada is 75 years without parole. Justin Bourque in New Brunswick, Dellen Millard in Ontario and Derek Saretzky in Alberta all received that sentence for triple murders.

Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau of Quebec was sentenced to 35 years without parole last year for ordering two murders and two attempted murders. In Ontario, the Crown is seeking 50 years in prison for the Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur, who pleaded guilty to eight first-degree murders.

By comparison, Robert Pickton, who was sentenced in 2007 before the Criminal Code was changed to allow consecutive sentences, received life with no chance of parole for 25 years after being found guilty of killing six women.

Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

New owner, new era for junior B Islanders

Carl Ollech takes the reins at Kerry Park

Shirley Skolos, former Citizen publisher, dies after battle with cancer

Well known for her enthusiasm and energy, Skolos succumbed early Aug. 21

Fire damages Vancouver Island medical marijuana facility

Fire broke out at an industrial facility at the corner of Drinkwater… Continue reading

Memorable weekend of family fun at Lake Cowichan celebrates 75th anniversary

From parading a birthday cake through town to the return of timbersports, the big event was great

One dead after work-place accident

Incident under investigation

Ethnic media aim to help maintain boost in voting by new Canadians

Statistics Canada says new Canadians made up about one-fifth of the voting population in 2016

BC SPCA overwhelmed with cats, kittens needing homes

Large number of cruelty investigations, plus normal ‘kitten season’ to blame

Wife charged in husband’s death in Sechelt

Karin Fischer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of her husband, Max

B.C. Hydro applies for rare cut in electricity rates next year

Province wrote off $1.1 billion debt to help reverse rate increase

Retired Vancouver Island teacher ‘Set for Life’ after $675K lottery win

Patrick Shannon plans to buy new sails for his sailboat

Speculation tax forces sale of Greater Victoria’s iconic ‘Tulip House’

Bob and Jan Fleming selling their retirement home famous for its thousands of tulips

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Man at centre of dropped HIV-disclosure case sues province and 10 cops

Brian Carlisle of Abbotsford says Mission RCMP defamed him and were ‘negligent’ in their investigation

Striking Western Forest Products workers could lose benefits in September

Union, forest company at odds over Vancouver Island benefit payments as strike enters third month

Most Read