Parole (in)eligibility on First Degree Murder Matters

Published On: Jun 17,2022

The imposition of consecutive parole (in)eligibility was considered in Regina v. Bissonnette, 2022 SCC 23, the Supreme Court of Canada addressed the constitutionality of s.745.51 of the Criminal Code. Section 745.51 authorizes the imposition of consecutive parole ineligibility periods in cases involving multiple murders. In the context of first (1st) degree murders, the application of this provision permits a court to add up parole ineligibility periods of twenty-five (25) years for each murder. In a unanimous decision, the court held that s.745.51 is contrary to s.12 of the Charter (right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual treatment or punishment) and is not saved under s.1.  The Court stated the following with respect to s. 12 of the Charter.  

Supreme Court of Canada unanimously strikes down life without parole.

Section 12 of the Charter guarantees the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment. In essence, the purpose of s. 12 of the Charter is to protect human dignity and ensure respect for the inherent worth of each individual. The protection afforded by s. 12 has two (2)  prongs. Section 12 protects, first, against the imposition of a punishment that is so excessive as to be incompatible with human dignity and, second, against the imposition of a punishment that is intrinsically incompatible with human dignity. The first prong of the s. 12 guarantee relates to punishment whose effect is grossly disproportionate to what would have been appropriate. The second prong of the protection afforded by s. 12 concerns a narrow class of punishments that are cruel and unusual by nature; these punishments will always be grossly disproportionate because they are intrinsically incompatible with human dignity.  

A punishment is cruel and unusual by nature if the court is convinced that, having regard to its nature and effects, it could never be imposed in a manner consonant with human dignity in the Canadian criminal context. To determine whether a punishment is intrinsically incompatible with human dignity, the court must determine whether the punishment is, by its very nature, degrading or dehumanizing. The effects that the punishment may have on all offenders on whom it is imposed can also inform the court and provide support for its analysis of the nature of the punishment. A punishment that is cruel and unusual by nature must always be excluded from the arsenal of punishments available to the state. It follows that the mere possibility that a punishment that is cruel and unusual by nature may be imposed is enough to infringe s. 12 of the Charter.  The court declared the provision to be of no force or effect immediately under s.52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982. The court held that the declaration strikes down the provision retroactively to the date it was enacted.

J. S. Patel, Criminal Defence Lawyer

If you have been charged with a criminal offence, call Mr. J.S. Patel, Barrister for a free telephone consultation at 403-585-1960 or 647-323-1960.