Justin Bourque has a date with the New Brunswick Court of Appeal next month, but it’s more of a legal formality than anything else, says his lawyer.
In court documents, David Lutz has asked the court to shave 50 years off Bourque’s parole eligibility.
The move simply ensures Bourque’s parole documents are in line with last year’s decision by the Supreme Court of Canada.
In May, the court unanimously struck down so-called “parole-stacking” for mass murderers. According to the decision, it took effect immediately and is retroactive to 2011, when the law was created.
That meant Bourque, the man who killed three RCMP officers in Moncton in 2014, will be eligible for parole at the age of 49 rather than 99, which is what the sentencing judge imposed.
But Bourque’s file still contains the original parole eligibility. Lutz said he must formally ask the court to “make the change official.”
Section 745.51 of the Criminal Code was enacted in 2011 and gave sentencing judges the power to combine parole eligibility in cases of multiple first- and second-degree murder charges.
But Alexandre Bissonnette, who shot six people at a mosque in 2017, challenged the constitutionality of the law and the Supreme Court decided in his favour last May.
Chief Justice Richard Wagner wrote the decision for the court, saying it constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
Wagner wrote that by establishing parole ineligibility “for 75, 100, 125 or even 800 years, the conclusion is self‑evident: the individual is sentenced to die in prison, deprived of any possibility of one day recovering a portion of their liberty.”
He then cited Bourque’s case as an illustration that “such cases are far from being hypothetical.”
Each victim ‘deserved a life sentence’
The judge who sentenced Bourque in 2014 spoke about using the Criminal Code section that was struck down last year.
Just before he retired from the bench in 2019, David Smith talked about handing down three consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole for 75 years.
“There were three police officers,” Smith said in an interview in his office the day before he retired from the court. “Police officers put their lives on the line for us. I felt each one of them, their loss, deserved a life sentence. That was my feeling on it.”