Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

March 11, 2015 15:37 ET

The Government of Canada Introduces Legislation to Keep Canada's Most Heinous Criminals Behind Bars for Life

Life Means Life Act to ensure that Canada's most dangerous offenders receive a life sentence with no chance for parole

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - March 11, 2015) - Department of Justice Canada

Introduction

Today, Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced legislation that would ensure that Canada's most heinous criminals will be subject to mandatory life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. These measures build on the Government of Canada's ongoing commitment to keeping Canada's streets and communities safe and bringing the rights of the victims to the heart of the criminal justice system.

The proposed reforms would ensure that murderers who show a complete disregard for the safety and security of Canadians, law enforcement, and fundamental Canadian values, by committing planned and deliberate murder involving kidnapping, sexual assault, terrorism or the killing of police and correctional officers, would receive a life sentence with no chance for parole.

The Life Means Life Act follows through on the 2013 Speech from the Throne commitment to ensure that a life sentence means a sentence for life, building on the Government's ongoing commitment to keep Canada's streets and communities safe by holding violent offenders accountable and ensuring that the rights of victims are placed over the rights of criminals.
These measures build on the Government of Canada's ongoing commitment to keep our streets and communities safe and to stand up for victims of crime.

Since 2006, the Government of Canada has introduced numerous measures to ensure that the rights of victims were brought back to the heart of the criminal justice system including introducing Bill C-32, the Victims Bill of Rights Act, and making changes to the law for those deemed not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder to make the safety of the public paramount.

To help ensure that the values of Canadians and the safety of the public are taken into account when it comes to the sentencing of violent offenders, the Government of Canada has also made changes to the faint hope clause that allowed murderers to apply for early parole, introduced legislation allowing judges to impose consecutive sentences for multiple murders so that each life taken is represented in an offender's sentence, and most recently announced upcoming legislation to end automatic statutory release for violent repeat offenders.

Quick Facts

  • The Life Means Life Act would build on the Government of Canada's tough-on-crime measures to keep Canada's streets and communities safe by ensuring that criminals who are convicted of the most serious murders or those who are convicted of high treason would be imprisoned for the rest of their natural lives with no access to parole. This would include a mandatory sentence of life without parole for planned and deliberate first degree murders involving:
    • sexual assault;
    • kidnapping or forcible confinement;
    • terrorism;
    • the killing of police officers or corrections officers;
    • or, conduct of a particularly brutal nature.
  • Furthermore, a judge would have discretion to impose a life sentence without the possibility of parole in any other first degree murder cases as well as for second degree murders where the offender has been previously convicted of murder.

To address constitutional concerns, this legislation would permit a criminal serving life without parole to apply to the Minister of Public Safety for exceptional release after serving no less than 35 years. Decisions on petitions of this kind would rest with the federal Cabinet on the recommendation of the Minister of Public Safety.

The proposed legislation builds on measures introduced by the Government of Canada to support victims of crime, such as Bill C-32, the Victims Bill of Rights Act, historic legislation, that, aims to put innocent victims back where they should be - at the very heart of our system of justice.

Quotes

"Our Government remains committed to keeping our streets and communities safe for Canadians and their families while also ensuring that the rights of victims remain at the very heart of our criminal justice system. I am proud that our Government has introduced this new legislation, which would ensure that those who commit the most heinous crimes in Canada face the full force of the law and are kept behind bars for life. Our Government will continue to make principled decisions that reflect the values of Canadians and ensure that the most dangerous offenders in Canada cannot pose a risk to Canadians or their families."

Peter MacKay
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Related Products

Backgrounder: Life Means Life

Associated Links

PM announces upcoming legislation to keep Canada's most heinous criminals behind bars for life: http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2015/03/04/pm-announces-upcoming-legislation-keep-canadas-most-heinous-criminals-behind-bars

Follow Department of Justice Canada on Twitter (@JusticeCanadaEn), join us on Facebook or visit our YouTube channel.

Backgrounder

Life Means Life Act

Proposed Legislation

The Government of Canada remains committed to keeping our streets and communities safe for Canadians and their families. To this end, Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently announced the Government's intention to introduce legislation which would amend Canada's Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to ensure that Canada's most heinous criminals would be subject to a mandatory life sentence without parole.

Currently, the mandatory sentence for first degree murder or high treason is life imprisonment with eligibility for parole after 25 years.

The proposed legislation, the Life Means Life Act, would amend the Criminal Code to make a life sentence without parole mandatory for the following crimes:

  • First degree murder that is planned and deliberate and that involves:
    • sexual assault;
    • kidnapping or forcible confinement;
    • terrorism;
    • the killing of police officers or corrections officers;
    • or, conduct of a particularly brutal nature.
  • High treason.

The proposed bill, the Life Means Life Act, would also give courts the discretion to impose a sentence of life without parole for:

  • Any other first degree murder where a sentence of life without parole is not mandatory; and
  • Second degree murder where the murderer has previously been convicted of either a murder or an intentional killing under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

To address constitutional concerns, this legislation would permit a criminal serving life without parole to apply to the Minister of Public Safety for exceptional release after serving no less than 35 years. Consistent with the traditional approach to the granting of clemency, decisions on petitions of this kind would rest with the federal Cabinet on the recommendation of the Minister of Public Safety..

The Life Means Life Act would align Canada's criminal justice approach with likeminded countries such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the United States, and Australia.

These measures build on the numerous measures introduced by the Government of Canada since 2006 to help keep our streets and communities safe for Canadians and their families and to ensure that the rights of victims were brought back to the heart of the criminal justice system including: changes to the faint hope clause that allowed killers to seek early parole, making changes allowing judges to impose consecutive sentences for multiple murders so that each life taken is represented in an offenders sentence, most recently announcing upcoming legislation to end automatic statutory release for violent repeat offenders, introducing Bill C-32, the Victims Bill of Rights Act, and making changes to the law for those deemed not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder to make the safety of the public paramount.

Contact Information

  • Clarissa Lamb
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister of Justice
    613-992-4621

    Media Relations
    Department of Justice
    613-957-4207