||The Kingston Whig-Standard - Brockville woman calls for tougher knife laws ||
The Kingston Whig-Standard - Brockville woman calls for tougher knife laws
Brockville woman calls for tougher knife laws
By Ian Elliot
Local News - Tuesday, March 29, 2005 @ 07:00
The mother of a young man stabbed to death in an Ottawa bar seven years
ago says her heart goes out to the family of Justin Schwieg.
And Paulette Moffitt, whose 23-year-old son Andy was murdered
two days before Christmas in 1998 in an unprovoked attack similar to
the Schwieg case, is pushing for a private member's bill that would
impose harsher sentences on people who use knives to injure and kill.
"Our hearts go out to the family in Kingston," Moffitt said yesterday from her Brockville home.
"We know what they will be going through in the days and weeks and months to come."
Moffitt's son was a computer engineering student at the
University of Ottawa who worked part time at Nortel. He was stabbed to
death on Dec. 23, 1998, while trying to break up a confrontation
between a drug dealer and other men at a bar frequented by university
His killer, Henry Danninger, pleaded guilty to a reduced
charge of manslaughter in 2003 and was sentenced to five years in
is serving his time at Bath Institution west of Kingston and is already
eligible for parole, a fact that enrages Moffitt's family. Their anger
has led them to work with Leeds-Grenville MP Gord Brown on a crusade
for stronger laws on crimes involving knives.
"It's crazy out there and we need tougher laws to prevent this sort of thing from happening," Paulette Moffitt said.
"A knife is a tool of death. If it is hidden and it is pulled
out so easily, we need a minimum sentence to make people think twice
about doing it."
Brown has authored a private member's bill that, among other
things, would require minimum sentences for crimes involving knives
He also wants to see a standard system for granting
presentence custody credits. Normally one day served awaiting trial
cuts two days off a sentence, but some judges give three or even four
days' credit for each day of pretrial custody.
Manslaughter or attempted manslaughter with a knife should carry a minimum four-year sentence, Brown said yesterday.
The bill is important because it would impose penalties on
killers who plead to the lesser sentence of manslaughter instead of
being tried for murder. Murder carries an automatic life sentence,
although people convicted of second-degree murder become eligible for
parole earlier than those convicted of first-degree murder.
The man accused in Schwieg’s death, Bruce Keno McKenzie, 26, of Brampton, is charged with second-degree murder.
Brown's bill is being studied by the parliamentary legal
department. He and the Moffitt family hope the publicity and outrage
surrounding Schwieg's killing will bring the bill to the floor of the
House of Commons for debate sooner.
"The death of Justin Schwieg was senseless," Brown said in an
interview. "It might have been prevented if there were mandatory
minimum sentences for crimes committed with knives."
Each weekend, Brown said, knives are used to wound and kill
people. The incidents usually occur in larger cities, but he said the
scourge is spreading to smaller places.
"This is becoming an epidemic," he said. "You open the
Toronto papers after a weekend and you're going to find the same thing
over and over.
"If there were greater consequences for it, people might
think twice before popping a knife in their pocket as they're leaving
For a private member's bill to succeed, it needs support
across party lines. Brown, a Conservative MP, and Moffitt said if any
issue is nonpartisan, it's this one.
"It's something all members of Parliament can support," said
Moffitt, whose family continues to monitor Danninger’s sentence and
plans to appear at his parole hearing, scheduled for next month.
"I can't see anyone disagreeing with this."