Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

October 05, 2010 12:07 ET

Government of Canada Introduces Legislation to End Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murderers

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 5, 2010) - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, accompanied by Mr. Daniel Petit, M.P. for Charlesbourg-Haute-Saint-Charles and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, today announced the re-introduction of legislation to end sentence discounts for multiple murders.

"It is important to the families of murder victims that the value of each life taken be acknowledged in the sentencing process," said Minister Nicholson. "This legislation will help ensure that the criminals who commit this most serious offence – multiple murders – serve a sentence that more adequately reflects the heinous nature of their crimes."

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, criminals convicted of multiple murders serve their parole ineligibility periods concurrently, meaning that they are eligible to apply for parole after just 10 to 25 years, depending on their sentence.

"Once this bill becomes law, multiple murderers will no longer serve their parole ineligibility periods concurrently," said Mr. Petit. "Our government is committed to supporting victims of crime, keeping dangerous criminals off our streets, and ensuring the safety and security of our communities."

First-degree murder and two categories of second-degree murder carry a mandatory life sentence with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. The remaining categories of second-degree murder carry 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 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 In 1976, Parliament repealed the death penalty and introduced mandatory terms of life imprisonment for offenders convicted of first- and second-degree murder.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 and two categories of second degree murder have a parole ineligibility period of 25 years. The remaining categories of second-degree murder have 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 parole ineligibility period.

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, given the seriousness of their crimes. The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code would address this situation 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.

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 April 20, 2010 the Government introduced Bill S-6 (formerly Bill C-36) which would effectively 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 able to apply to be eligible 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.

For an online version of the legislation, visit www.parl.gc.ca.

Contact Information

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