The parents of Brian Ilesic, one of three people fatally shot by their G4S guard co-worker inside HUB Mall in Edmonton in 2012, are upset by a recent Supreme Court decision that could reduce the time their son’s killer remains behind bars.
“This is not an easy subject for discussion,” Mike Ilesic said Tuesday morning.
“Both Mike and I feel deflated because of what the Supreme Court did,” Diana Ilesic said. “We have lost confidence in our present government that has failed to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision.”
Travis Baumgartner was convicted of killing three of his co-workers and injuring a fourth during a robbery June 15, 2012, at the University of Alberta’s HUB mall.
Baumgartner pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Eddie Rejano, two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Brian Ilesic and Michelle Shegelski, and guilty of one count of attempted murder in the shooting of Matthew Schuman.
In 2013, he became the first Canadian sentenced to life in prison without a chance of parole for 40 years. He was 23 at the time.
“This is the harshest sentence in Canada since the last execution in 1962,” said Chief Crown Prosecutor Steven Bilodeau after the sentencing submission.
It was possible because of a 2011 Criminal Code provision under the Stephen Harper government that allowed a judge, in the event of multiple murders, to impose a life sentence and parole ineligibility periods of 25 years to be served consecutively for each murder, rather than concurrently.
However, on May 27, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down that provision on consecutive sentencing in the event of multiple murders. It was declared unconstitutional.
“The Supreme Court said that was not a legitimate option, given what the statute said and … the court determined that it was cruel and unusual punishment and had to be struck down,” said Kent Roach, a professor of law at the University of Toronto.
“The court also opened the door for everyone who has been sentenced under this no discount for multiple murder provision basically to have their sentence reduced to the ordinary mandatory minimum, which is life imprisonment, ineligibility for parole for 25 years.”
The Ilesics are worried they could be at a parole hearing in front of their son’s killer in just 15 years.
“This particular change has brought out some aggravation in me, naturally,” Mike said.
“The possibility of me going to a parole hearing in 15 years is not something I was looking forward to.
“Basically we’d kind of be reliving the tragedy that took place then,” Mike added. “I would prefer if he’d stay in custody for 40 years without a parole eligibility date. Who knows? I probably wouldn’t have to be there at my age.”
Diana said she was shocked to hear about the court’s decision.
“The Supreme Court also stated that life sentences without reasonable probability of parole has a devastating effect on the offenders. Really? What about the effects on victims and survivors?”
“We wanted the public to know of this change,” Diana said. “When we talked to several people, they were not aware of this change.”
St. Albert MP Michael Cooper is urging the Liberal government to act now by invoking a notwithstanding clause or creating a new law.
“When we’re talking about multiple murderers being able to apply for parole in as little as 25 years, that is simply unacceptable.”
Cooper said the court “got it wrong” and now it’s in the federal minister’s court to act.
“This decision of the Supreme Court benefits one group of Canadians and one group only, and that is the rogue’s gallery of the worst of the worst mass killers.”
A spokesperson for the federal minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada provided a statement to Global News.
“We want to acknowledge the hurt and anger that the Supreme Court decision may have rekindled among all the victims, survivors, their families and friends of horrific attacks across the country,” Chantalle Aubertin said.
“Although legal, the use of the notwithstanding clause is extremely serious, since it has the effect of suspending legal protections guaranteed by the Charters of Rights and Freedoms.
“We believe that any government that uses a remedy of this scope must set out the exceptional considerations that justify, in its view, suspending legal protections under the Charter,” she continued.
“Those who commit serious offences will continue to receive serious sentences. As Attorney General, Minister (David) Lametti defended and supported a sentencing judge’s discretion to impose a longer period of parole ineligibility where appropriate. As you know, those arguments were not accepted by the Court in its 9-0 decision.
“Murder is one of the most serious offences in the Criminal Code, and attracts its most serious punishment — a mandatory life sentence — the Supreme Court’s decision does not change that fact.
“In addition, eligibility for parole does not guarantee that a person will receive parole. It will be up to the Parole Board of Canada to determine whether Mr. Travis Baumgartner, like any other convicted murderer, is eligible for parole after 25 years.
“We respect the court’s independence. We will respect its unanimous decision and are carefully assessing the path forward to ensure the system does a better job of preventing crime and holding offenders accountable.”