The Canadian far-right extremist who murdered six Muslims at an Islamic Cultural Center in Quebec City was sentenced on Friday to life imprisonment.
Alexandre Bissonnette, 29, will have to serve a minimum of 40 years until he is eligible for parole for an attack Superior Court Justice François Huot described during the six-hour sentencing hearing as “premeditated, gratuitous and abject.” He added that Bissonnette was driven by “racism and hatred.”
The prosecution initially had asked for a 150 year sentence, which would have been the harshest sentence ever handed down in Canadian history.
Some survivors of the incident were angry that Bissonnette would face the possibility of parole, as well as the fact that he did not faces terrorism charges.
“Today is a sad day,” survivor Saïd El-Amari said outside the courtroom. “We are committing 17 orphans to 40 years of suffering, at the end of which they will have to show up again to keep this assassin behind bars. That suffering starts today and will last 40 years — I am floored.”
Bissonnette walked into the Quebec City Islamic cultural center right after evening prayers on January 27th, and quickly began shooting indiscriminately, killing six and wounding five others — including one man who was left paralyzed.
A massive manhunt was quickly launched and Bissonnette was arrested — although not before the Trump administration had attempted to use the tragedy to justify the president’s Muslim Ban.
In an interrogation video released shortly after, Bissonnette attempted to justify his actions by claiming he was trying to defend Canada from Muslim immigrants. Shortly before the attack, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had made the decision to allow more Muslim refugees into the country, as a direct response to the Trump administration’s ban.
When investigators searched Bissonnette’s computer, it became clear that he had been radicalized by the far-right, frequently and obsessively checking the Twitter feeds of conservative personalities like Ben Shapiro as well as more far-right individuals like Richard Spencer, Alex Jones and David Duke.
“The same themes come up repeatedly,” prosecutor Thomas Jacques told the Montreal Gazette last April. “Firearms, mass shootings, the question of Islam and feminism and the mosque.”
Bissonnette pleaded guilty to the murders last March and said he regretted his actions. “I am ashamed of what I did,” he told the courtroom at the time. “I am not a terrorist, I am not an Islamophobe.”