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Alberta’s top court reduces parole ineligibilities in 3 multiple murder cases

The move follows Supreme Court ruling on parole eligibility
The statue representing justice looks out from the Supreme Court of Canada over the Parliamentary precinct in Ottawa on Thursday March 25, 2021. Canada’s top court has sent the case of two men convicted in the slayings of three family members back to the Alberta Court of Appeal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Alberta’s top court has reduced the parole eligibilities in three high-profile multiple murder cases to bring them in line with a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

Last month the top court struck down the Criminal Code provision that meant multiple murderers might have to wait 50 years or more to apply for parole, calling it degrading and incompatible with human dignity.

The unanimous high court decision came in the case of Alexandre Bissonnette, who fatally shot six people at a Quebec City mosque in 2017.

The ruling meant he can seek parole after 25 years instead of having to wait 40 years as determined by the judge in the original trial.

The Alberta Court of Appeal followed suit on Friday, applying the new standard in three separate murder cases.

Joshua Frank and Jason Klaus were each convicted of three counts of first-degree murder after the bodies of Klaus’s father and sister were discovered in their burnt-out farmhouse near Red Deer, Alta., in 2013. His mother’s body was never found.

They were ordered to serve 50 years before applying for release.

Edward Downey killed Sara Baillie and her five-year-old daughter, Taliyah Marsman, in Calgary in 2016. He was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and given a life sentence with no chance of parole for 50 years.

Derek Saretzky was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder in the 2015 deaths of Terry Blanchette, his two-year-old daughter, Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette and neighbour Hanne Meketech in Blairmore, Alta. He was given a life sentence with no chance of parole for 75 years.

In a recent interview Saretzky’s lawyer said the court’s move gives his client hope and a chance at rehabilitation.

“I felt what was wrong about the law, in particular Saretzky’s sentence, was that he was 22 at the time of the offence and so to give a 75-year, no-parole (sentence) just means it’s taken away all hope from this young man,” said Balfour Der.

“You’re predicting the future that he could never be rehabilitated.”

All four men had appealed their sentences. They are now all eligible to apply for parole after 25 years.

–Bill Graveland The Canadian Press