Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

October 28, 2009 16:02 ET

Government of Canada to End Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murderers

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 28, 2009) - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and Mr. Daniel Petit, M.P. for Charlesbourg-Haute-Saint-Charles and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, today announced the introduction of legislation to end sentence discounts for multiple murders.

"We cannot bring back those who have been so callously murdered nor repair the hearts of those who have lost loved ones to murder. But we can ensure that those who commit the most serious crime of all, taking a life, will pay a more appropriate price," said Minister Nicholson.

"Once this bill becomes law, multiple murderers will no longer get volume discounts," said the Minister. "The value of each life taken will be acknowledged, and Canadians will be better protected from the criminals who commit such heinous acts."

The new legislation would allow judges to impose consecutive parole ineligibility periods on individuals convicted of more than one first- or second-degree murder. Under the current system, individuals convicted of multiple murders serve their parole ineligibility periods concurrently.

"The family of a murder victim should not be left to feel that the life of their loved one doesn't count," said Mr. Petit. "Through this and other measures our Government is standing up for victims and protecting Canadians by keeping criminals behind bars and off our streets."

First-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. Second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence with no eligibility for parole for a minimum of 10 years up to a maximum of 25 years.

An online version of the legislation tabled today will be available at www.parl.gc.ca.


BACKGROUNDER

ENDING SENTENCE DISCOUNTS FOR MULTIPLE MURDERERS

Current Legislation - Parole Ineligibility Periods

Murder is considered first degree when it is "planned and deliberate", when the victim is a police officer or engaged in law enforcement or corrections, or when death occurs during the commission of crimes including, among others, aircraft hijacking, hostage taking, kidnapping, and sexual assault. All other murders are considered second-degree. In 1976, Parliament repealed the death penalty and introduced mandatory terms of life imprisonment for offenders convicted of first- and second-degree murder. First-degree murder has a parole ineligibility period of 25 years, while second-degree murder has a minimum parole ineligibility period of 10 years, to a maximum of 25 years, the actual period within this range being set out in each case by the sentencing court.

Under the current system, individuals convicted of multiple murders serve their life sentences concurrently and are therefore subject to only one 25-year parole ineligibility period. The only current exception to the single parole ineligibility period rule occurs when a convicted murderer commits another murder while in prison.

Proposed Amendments

Families of victims argue that the fact that life sentences for multiple murders are served concurrently devalues the lives of victims and puts Canadians at risk by allowing multiple murderers to be paroled earlier than merited, based on the seriousness of their crimes. The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code would address this problem by allowing judges to impose consecutive parole ineligibility periods on individuals convicted of more than one first- or second-degree murder.

Consecutive parole ineligibility periods for multiple murderers would not be mandatory under the proposed legislation. Discretion would be given to judges to consider the character of the offender, the nature and circumstances of the offence, and any jury recommendation(s) before deciding on whether to impose consecutive parole ineligibility periods. Judges would, however, be required to state orally or in writing the basis for any decision not to impose consecutive parole ineligibility periods on multiple murderers.

Bill C-36 - Repeal of the "Faint-Hope" Clause

The amendments proposed above are an important part of the Government of Canada's commitment to enhance truth in sentencing and ensure that Canadians are protected from violent criminals. On June 5, 2009 the Government introduced Bill C-36 which would repeal the "faint-hope" clause of the Criminal Code for all future offenders.

A repeal of the "faint-hope" clause means that offenders who commit murder on or after the day the repeal came into force would no longer be eligible to apply for early parole. Those given a life sentence for first-degree murder would not be eligible to apply to the National Parole Board (NPB) for parole until they have served at least 25 years. Those given a life sentence for second-degree murder would not be eligible to apply to the NPB for parole until their parole ineligibility period is served, which could be up to 25 years.

(Version francaise disponible)

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of Justice
    Pamela Stephens
    Press Secretary
    613-992-4621
    or
    Department of Justice
    Media Relations
    613-957-4207
    www.canada.justice.gc.ca