What is a “Life Sentence” in Canada?

A homicide in Canada must include culpability to be considered murder. That means, the courts must believe the killer is deserving of blame. The fact that the courts must decide culpability, or blameworthiness, opens the legal charge of murder, to the influence of homophobia.

Currently, murder in Canada is split into first degree and second degree. First degree murder includes:
• contracted murder
• when the victim is a police officer, sheriff or other person associated with upholding the law
• where there is hijacking, sexual assault or kidnapping
• it involves criminal harassment, terrorist activity, organized crime, or intimidation
(https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/section-231.html)

All murder that is not first degree murder, is second degree murder.

Murder may be reduced to manslaughter if the person who committed the act did so in the heat of passion caused by sudden provocation.

Again, homophobia in the courts can play a big role in reducing a murder charge to manslaughter. Until the decriminalization of homosexuality on June 27, 1969, being gay was often granted as a provocation, allowing a murder charge to be reduced. Now, it’s frequently used by defense, but less often is it accepted by the judge or jury.

An example of how complex the charges can be is highlighted in the trial of the 1977 murder of Neil Wilkinson . Wilkinson was beaten to death, and his killer , James Allan Walker, was arrested and charged with first degree murder. Walker offered to plead guilty to manslaughter, but the Crown rejected the plea and the case went to trial. During the trial, Walker said Wilkinson had fantasies of pedophilia and he was therefore provoked to kill him. Walker was found guilty of second-degree murder by a jury.

Throughout the years, penalties for homicide have changed. However, it is important to note that no matter how many victims a convicted murderer might have, a murderer can only have one life sentence. For example, Bruce McArthur pleaded guilty to killing 8 men, but was given just one life sentence, not 8 life sentences.

From the excellent CBC news article “Here’s what judges will consider when sentencing McArthur and Bissonnette” :

“… A concurrent sentence means multiple sentences will be served at the same time. In general, this is the rule for multiple convictions stemming from the same event. But the judge does always have discretion.

Consecutive sentences are served one after the other. Sentences for crimes committed on different occasions can be ordered to be served consecutively. ..

In the Bruce McArthur murder case (http://murdervillage.com/tag/bruce-mcarthur/) — a sentence will be handed down Friday in Toronto — McArthur pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder. Each count carries a mandatory life sentence. A judge cannot sentence someone to more than one life sentence. So McArthur will receive one life sentence.

What the judge can decide is whether the periods of parole eligibility will also be concurrent or consecutive…

McArthur… will serve one life sentence no matter what. But the judge is scheduled to decide Friday whether to allow him to request parole in 25 years or add more periods of ineligibility…”

To read the full article, please visit the CBC

Police Consider Cold Cases in McArthur Murders

Alleged gay serial killer Bruce McArthur

Black and white photo of Toronto homicide victims of a serial killer

Alleged Convicted gay Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur has, as of April 2018, been charged with the deaths of eight men, most of whom are gay/LGBT+. Sgt. Detective Hank Idsinga has said police are reviewing cold case murder files dating back to the 1970s where gay men were slain in the downtown core or after leaving gay bars.

Police are not specifically naming whose cases they are checking for fingerprints, DNA and other forensic evidence, but do say that with new technology, old evidence once deemed not useful may now yield results. Here are the names, in alphabetical order, of cold cases listed on Murder Village that the police may be considering. Some of the names below don’t meet the profile, and it’s possible that they are considering names of victims not listed here.

  1. David Buller, 2001: A visual studies university professor stabbed in his office, whose computerized bondage artwork was printed just before his murder
  2. Thomas Cahill, 1983: A high school art teacher stabbed in his home after meeting one or more people at a bar
  3. Larry Callahan, 2006: An older man on disability, he was beaten to death in his home
  4. Dennis Colby, 1995: A heavy drinker known for finding other gay men for sex on phone lines (before the internet and dating apps!) who was isolated and lonely
  5. Cassandra Do, 2003: A sex worker sexually assaulted and murdered in her bathtub. Police suspect a black man named “Victor” is responsible
  6. Fred Fontaine, 1975: Beaten to death in the bathroom of the St. Charles Tavern
  7. Bernard Guay, 1977: Killed in Allen Gardens during a mugging, police are looking for 3 suspects
  8. Richard Hovey, 1967 and Eric Jones, 1967: Slain teenagers whom police believe were killed by James Henry (Greenidge) but they never laid charges
  9. James Kennedy, 1976: Found beaten and strangled with a towel wrapped around his neck, last seen at the St. Charles Tavern
  10. Brian Latocki, 1977: An obvious possibility, he was tortured, stabbed and strangled in his bed
  11. Sandy LeBlanc, 1978: Owner of a popular gay bar, he was stabbed more than 100 times
  12. Ross Magill, 2008: Stabbed multiple times, police believe he let his attacker into his home
  13. Nirmal Sawle Ramnanan, 1982: Bound to a chair and stabbed multiple times, police said there were no signs of forced entry
  14. William Robinson, 1978: Found “horribly mutilated” in his home after meeting someone at the St. Charles Tavern
  15. Bruno Seidel, 1967: A quiet, mysterious man stabbed multiple times in his home
  16. James Taylor, 1976: Beaten to death in his home with a baseball bat, police say a pickup truck was seen outside his home at the time of the murder
  17. Harold Walkley, 1975: Walkely was last seen at the gay bar Quest, but reportedly left alone. He was found naked on his bed, stabbed to death

Arrest in Tess Richey murder

Graffiti on a sign memorializing the murder of Tess Richey

Graffiti on a sign memorializing the murder of Tess Richey

On February 5, 2018, police announced the arrest of 21-year-old Kalen Schlatter. He was charged with second-degree murder in relation to the death of Tess Richey. A trial is pending. Just before police made the announcement, a member of the Richey family explained that they were told that postering efforts weren’t required because, apparently, Schlatter had been a suspect for a while. That explains our earlier concerns about the absence of Person of Interest posters.

Just An Observation

Black and white photo of Toronto homicide victim Tess Richey

Today when I was out and about in The Village, I saw someone who made me think “Is that the murder suspect in the Tess Richey case? I could not find any flyers that showed the guy’s picture. Why is there none out there that I could see?  Isn’t it the police’s job to plaster the flyers everywhere? Maybe the BIA? Surely it is not the grieving family’s!

Once I got home and checked on the computer it wasn’t him. I’m grateful.