Bissonnette: Another Step Forward, After the Harper Decade of Regression in Sentencing

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Sentencing, Supreme Court of Canada, Multiple Murders, Criminal Justice Policy, Politics in Canada


In R. v. Bissonnette,' the Supreme Court of Canada has provided many reassuring pronouncements in its decision that s. 745.51 of the Criminal Code "is contrary to s.12 of the Charter and not saved under s.1" (para. 4). In cases involving multiple murders, the Court has rejected "the imposition of consecutive parole ineligibility periods" (para. 3) that could readily exceed life expectancy, "a sentence so absurd that it would bring the administration of justice into disrepute" (para. 7). It has strengthened Canadians' protection against any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment with its two-pronged approach, prohibiting "punishment that is grossly disproportionate in relation to the situation of a particular of-fender," but also banning "punishments that, by their very nature, are intrinsically incompatible with human dignity" (para. 6). However, it is neither churlish nor pessimistic to remain guarded about the future of sentencing for this small category of offenders and about the trajectory of punishment more generally, so this comment will canvass several issues which moderate any sense of relief after the striking down of s. 745.51.