Munyaneza, a 42-year-old Hutu denied refugee status in September 2000, will not be eligible for parole for 25 years. He has since lost several appeals.
Richard Perras, the defence lawyer, argued last month that the sentence should be closer to 20 years and said his client would appeal the conviction.
“He is the Hutu commercial elite of a fairly large community in Rwanda, who saw in the genocide a kind of opportunity to promote himself and to be prominent in his community”
Bruce Broomhall, Canadian Centre for International Justice
Munyaneza was living in Toronto and was arrested in October 2005 after reports surfaced that he had been seen in Canada’s Rwandan community.
African Rights, a Rwandan group that has documented the genocide, linked Munyaneza to prominent figures indicted by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
About 66 witnesses testified in Montreal during the trial, often behind closed doors to protect their identities.
Many accused Munyaneza, who was 27 at the time, of being a ground-level leader in a militia group that raped and murdered dozens.
Bruce Broomhall, of the Canadian Centre for International Justice, said on Thursday: “He is the Hutu commercial elite of a fairly large community in Rwanda, who saw in the genocide a kind of opportunity to promote himself and to be prominent in his community.”
The sentencing was closely followed by a number of Rwandan-Canadian’s who had endured the genocide.
Emmanuel Muhawenimena, who said he lost 70 family members in the genocide, said the result would be felt around the world.
“So many Rwandans in Montreal, across Canada, all over the world, they are happy today,” he said.
Jean-Paul Nyilinkwaya, a Rwandan who lives in Montreal and whose father was killed in the genocide, said he hoped Thursday would just be the beginning.
“This should be a sign that, you know, it can work and it is positive. So, you know, we hope the Canadian government can forge ahead and bring everybody to justice” he said.
Nyilinkwaya, who was instrumental in Munyaneza’s capture in Canada, said the sentence allows victims to believe humanity still exists.