Heroes to be honoured with awards
Fourteen Canadians to receive medals for their acts of bravery
Kim Pemberton
CanWest News Service with files from The Canadian Press
Andrew Moffitt was stabbed to death after coming to the aid of bar staff during a dispute.

A Canadian who helped foil an assassination attempt against French President Jacques Chirac and an Ottawa Good Samaritan who was stabbed to death while trying to help bar staff fend off an assailant will both receive bravery awards from Canada.

The two men are among 14 Canadians who will be honoured for their acts of heroism, Gov.-Gen. Adrienne Clarkson announced yesterday.

Ottawa's Andrew Moffitt was only 23 in December 1998 when he came to the aid of bar staff during a late-night scuffle at Coyotes, a since-closed bar not far from the University of Ottawa.

Mr. Moffitt, a computer engineering student, helped block the assailant and grabbed him by his coat before being stabbed in the heart during the ensuing struggle.

"This guy was a great kid and he was trying to be a Good Samaritan by smoothing out the fight," Det. Dale Hayes said at the time.

"For trying to help, he got shanked."

The assailant had wanted to settle a score with a former roommate who he thought had stolen his drugs.

Last year, Henry Danninger, 31, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in Mr. Moffitt's stabbing death.

Meanwhile, the man who helped save French President Jacques Chirac from an assassin's bullet, 47-year-old Surrey, B.C., resident Mohamed Chelali, has already received France's highest medal for heroism.

While watching a Bastille Day military parade last summer on the Champs Elysées, Mr. Chelali saw a man, just two metres away, aim a rifle at the French president.

"The president was waving to the crowd, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a guy opening a guitar case," said Mr. Chelali, who at the time was on vacation with his family.

"He was very clever. No one was behind him. It was just a matter of seconds. I saw the gun and just grabbed the guy."

He and four other bystanders tackled the man.

As Mr. Chelali and the other men tried to wrestle the .22 sporting rifle gun from the would-be assassin, two shots were fired. Then, Mr. Chelali removed its magazine and helped hold the would-be assassin until police arrived. No one was hurt.

A 25-year-old man who police described as a "neo-Nazi" was arrested after the incident and committed to a mental hospital.

He admitted later he hated Mr. Chirac and wanted to kill him "to save France."

Mr. Chirac did not know about the assassination attempt until after the parade.

The next day the president called Mr. Chelali, who by this time had been inundated with calls from the media, to thank him.

"I thought it was a joke. I said, 'You're kidding,' and he said it was no joke. He wanted to thank me."

The two men chatted, and when Mr. Chelali mentioned he was on his way to Beirut, where he was going to teach, the president said he would also be in Beirut in October for the 2002 Francophone Summit.

Mr. Chirac invited Mr. Chelali and his wife to the summit, where the French president gave him a medal for his heroism.

Mr. Chelali, who was born in North Africa, says he's very proud of being a Canadian and being recognized by Canada is an "honour."

"Canadians are known for peace," he said. "This is a small contribution."

The bravery award recipients will be invited to accept their medals at a ceremony in Ottawa.

The date is still to be set.

© Copyright  2003 The Ottawa Citizen

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