The man who shot dead six worshippers in a Quebec City mosque in 2017 has been sentenced to serve 40 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Francois Huot called Alexandre Bissonnette’s attack gratuitous and insidious as he handed down the sentence Friday.
The judge told Bissonnette, wearing a blue blazer and white shirt, to leave the prisoners’ box and stand in front of him as he read his decision. Huot began by saying the day of the murders “will forever be written in blood in the history of this city, this province, this country.”
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.
Several people in the Quebec City courtroom wept as the judge read a detailed account of the shooter’s actions that night. 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.
The judge said that in the years leading up to the shooting Bissonnette increasingly drank alcohol and experienced anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Huot noted that witnesses at his sentencing hearing testified that he had been severely bullied in school, had a documented history of mental health problems. He also lacked empathy, the judge said, quoting Bissonnette’s statement after the shootings: “I regret not having killed more people.”
First-degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole before 25 years. The Crown had recommended that Bissonnette serve six consecutive sentences totalling 150 years, while the defence argued he should be 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, but it was clear as Huot spent nearly six hours reading the 246-page decision that he was wrestling with the constitutionality of the law.
Huot concluded a sentence of 50 years or more would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. In the end he sentenced Bissonnette to concurrent life sentences for five murders, and on the sixth added 15 years to bring the total to 40.
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 to allow consecutive sentences.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press