Press Release: BCCLA welcomes Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling that stacking of parole ineligibility periods is unconstitutional

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Ottawa, ON (Unceded Algonquin Anishnaabeg Territory) The BC Civil Liberties Association welcomes the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision released on Friday in R v Bissonnette, that unanimously declared that the Criminal Code provision authorizing the stacking of parole ineligibility periods in cases involving multiple murders is unconstitutional. According to the Court, these sentences are incompatible with the value of human dignity underlying the Charter and degrading in nature because it deprives offenders of any possibility to reform and reintegrate into society.

R v Bissonnette is a case arising from the 2017 terrorist shootings at the Great Mosque of Quebec. Like the Supreme Court, the BCCLA recognizes that the ruling can never diminish nor erase the despicable and horrific nature of the underlying crimes.

The BCCLA intervened to strongly oppose the stacking of parole ineligibility periods. It argued that stacking consecutive parole ineligibility periods to incarcerate individuals for 50, 75 or 100 years, without a realistic hope of release, is cruel and grossly disproportionate. The Supreme Court of Canada agreed. Consistent with the BCCLA’s position, the Court held that sentencing is guided by the principle of restraint. The Court also acknowledged that excessive sentences fail to achieve any valid sentencing objectives and do nothing more than bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

Stephanie Goodwin, interim Executive Director of the BCCLA states: “This is a truly affirming decision that recognizes that retribution and vindictiveness have no place in modern Canadian society. It confirms that offenders, no matter who they are or what they have done, are redeemable in the eyes of the law and that the Canadian criminal justice system can and must recognize this basic human dignity”.

Carly Peddle, counsel for the BCCLA states: “The Court was unequivocal in finding that Parliament cannot extinguish rehabilitation as an objective of sentencing. We welcome the Court’s clear recognition that rehabilitation is intimately tied to human dignity and that excessive sentences do nothing other than undermine the administration of justice. Every individual deserves a Canadian justice system that protects and upholds these fundamental values.”

The BCCLA was represented by Danielle Robitaille and Carly Peddle of Henein Hutchison LLP.

Media Contact:

Carly Peddle, counsel for the BCCLA, at (416) 368-5000 or [email protected]