Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

March 09, 2011 11:27 ET

Parliament Passes Legislation Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murderers

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 9, 2011) - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, is pleased to announce the passing in Parliament of Bill C-48, the Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act.

 "This important legislation puts an end to sentence discounts for multiple murderers, meaning that from now on they can be made to serve their parole ineligibility periods one after another," said Minister Nicholson. "Families of murder victims can now take comfort in the fact that the sentencing process will be able to acknowledge the value of each life taken."

The new legislation allows judges to impose consecutive parole ineligibility periods on individuals convicted of more than one first- or second-degree murder. Under the old system, criminals convicted of multiple murders served their parole ineligibility periods concurrently, meaning that they were eligible to apply for parole after just one period ranging from 10 to 25 years, depending on their sentence.

"This is an important part of the Government's commitment to ensuring more truth in sentencing," said Minister Nicholson. "Multiple murders will now face a sentence that better reflects the severity of their crimes."

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 is available at www.parl.gc.ca.

(Version française disponible)

BACKGROUNDER: ENDING SENTENCE DISCOUNTS FOR MULTIPLE MURDERERS

The Current System for 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 In 1976, Parliament repealed the death penalty and introduced mandatory terms of life imprisonment for offenders convicted of first- and second-degree murder.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.

The Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
(Bill C-48)

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. Once Bill C-48 comes into force, this situation will end and judges will be able to impose consecutive parole ineligibility periods on individuals convicted of more than one first- or second-degree murder.

It is not mandatory under the new legislation for a judge to impose consecutive parole ineligibility periods for multiple murderers. Discretion has been 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. However, for the benefit of the families and loved ones of victims, judges are required to state orally or in writing the basis for their decision either to impose, or 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 February 15, 2011 Parliament passed Bill S-6 (Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act) which effectively repeals 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 will no longer be able to apply to be eligible for early parole. Those given a life sentence for first-degree murder will not be eligible to apply to the Parole Board of Canada for parole until they have served at least 25 years. Those given a life sentence for second-degree murder will not be eligible to apply for parole until their parole ineligibility period is served, which could be up to 25 years.

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