NEWS

Justin Bourque's sentencing hearing starts today in Moncton

10/27/2014 06:05 EDT | Updated 12/27/2014 05:59 EST
The sentencing hearing for Justin Christien Bourque, who killed three RCMP officers in June and wounded two others, is starting today in Moncton.

Bourque pleaded guilty in August to three charges of first-degree murder and two charges of attempted murder after shooting five RCMP officers.

New details of what led to the shooting and the manhunt that followed should emerge at the sentencing hearing.

As well, victim impact statements will be submitted as a part of the proceeding. These factors will be taken into consideration by Chief Justice David Smith in determining Bourque’s sentence.

The Crown gave notice in August that it will seek three consecutive life terms, which could mean 75 years in prison for Bourque.

Bourque, who was 24 at the time of the killings, would be 99 years of age before becoming eligible for parole, if he were given three consecutive life sentences.

Until 2011, the maximum sentence a multiple killer could be given in Canada was life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years.

In 2011, however, the federal government passed a new law that allows judges to sentence offenders consecutively when convicted of more than one murder.

The first case in which the law was used in sentencing was in 2013, when Travis Baumgartner received a 40-year sentence for killing three of his security company co-workers during a robbery.

Community reaction

The night of the Moncton shootings has been etched into the memory of many people who live in the north-end neighbourhood.

Joan MacAlpine-Stiles said she will never forget what she saw outside her house that evening.

"I just opened up the window, and here's this guy walking … across my backyard, donned in camouflage with two rifles and looked like Rambo from the TV show,” MacAlpine-Stiles said.

Moncton has reached out to people who live in the part of the city that was in the lockdown zone during the shootings and sent them brochures with information about how to identify psychological changes after a traumatic event.

While it may be difficult for people to forget that evening, some New Brunswickers are trying to find ways to remember the officers who were killed or injured by Bourque.

On the weekend, a Riverview park added a small memorial to the slain and wounded officers. 

Dorothy Gray, the district commissioner of the Riverview Girl Guides, said the organization received money to plant trees in the neighbouring town.

So they came up with a plan to plant five maple trees along the Petitcodiac River.

“They are planted in honour of the five constables, who were involved in the incident on June 4 in Moncton. And yesterday at the ceremony two of the two surviving RCMP constables were in attendance, which made it very meaningful,” Gray said.

Abby Fisher, the mother of one of the Girl Guides who helped plant the trees, said it was important for the guides to be a part of the dedication.

“We tell them that they put their lives on the line for us every day, and we need to show appreciation,” she said.

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