Quebec City mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette appeals sentence of 40 years without parole

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to killing six men at a Quebec City mosque two years ago, is appealing his sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole for 40 years.

His lawyers dropped off the appeal of his sentence at the Quebec City courthouse Friday

Alexandre Bissonnette had a month from Feb. 8 to appeal. (Hélène Bernier)

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to killing six men at a Quebec City mosque in 2017, is appealing his sentence.

Bissonnette, 29, was sentenced on Feb. 8 to life in prison without possibility of parole for 40 years. He had 30 days to appeal.

His lawyers dropped off the appeal at the Quebec City courthouse Friday.

In the appeal, lawyers Jean-Claude Gingras and Charles-Olivier Gosselin said the judge erred in applying a 40-year sentence before Bissonnette would be eligible for parole, calling it "illegal."

The appeal seeks to have the sentence reduced to a minimum of 25 years served before Bissonnette is eligible for parole.

Quebec Superior Court Justice François Huot's decision modified a 2011 law adopted to the Criminal Code by Stephen Harper's Conservative government.

Article 745.51 allows a judge to impose consecutive, rather than concurrent, periods of ineligibility for parole for multiple murders.

Huot modified the 2011 consecutive sentencing law to give himself the discretion to deliver consecutive life sentences that are not in blocks of 25 years. 

"The trial judge erred in law in concluding that he could rewrite Section 745.51," the appeal said.

The Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec issued a news release Friday evening which reaffirmed its desire to turn the page.

"We simply want to return to normal life and protect our children," the statement said, echoing a release it issued Feb. 24 about Bissonnette's sentence.

"We have no more comments to make." 

Crown had sought 150 years

​In handing down his sentence, Huot called Bissonnette's attack an "unspeakable tragedy" that "tore apart our social fabric."

He was handed the harshest prison sentence ever in Quebec and one of the longest in Canada.

But it was well under the six consecutive life sentences — 150 years before being eligible for parole — sought by the Crown.

In a letter issued after the sentencing, Bissonnette's parents questioned the sentence, calling it "very severe."

Meanwhile, members of the Muslim community argued that 40 years wasn't severe enough — it would mean children of the victims would be forced back into a courtroom later in their life when Bissonnette requests parole to revisit the tragedy all over again. 

Bissonnette pleaded guilty in March 2018 to six counts of first-degree murder, five counts of attempted murder for the men he wounded, and a sixth count of attempted murder for the 35 people present that night, including four children.