Two brutal stabbings that shook Ottawa last week have resonated with
Conservative MP Gord Brown, who is now retooling a bill that would
impose mandatory minimum sentences for knife crimes causing death.
many, these are just statistics, but each and every time something like
this happens, it's a family that gets impacted," said Mr. Brown, who
represents the Brockville and area riding of Leeds-Grenville. "My heart
goes out to these families who had to suffer because of this type of
Michael Oatway was stabbed late last Thursday while
riding an OC Transpo bus near Baseline Road and Centrepointe Drive. He
died shortly after being taken by paramedics to the Ottawa Hospital's
A 17-year-old has been charged with first-degree murder, robbery and possession of a restricted weapon.
Sept. 18, Karen Parker, 44, was found in Britannia Park with her throat
slashed. She survived the attack. John Dennis, her former boyfriend,
has been charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and forcible
Mr. Brown drafted a private member's bill during the
last Parliament that would set a minimum five-year sentence for
manslaughter in which a knife was the weapon. That bill died when
Parliament was dissolved in November 2005.
With the Conservatives now in power, Mr. Brown said the bill will be reintroduced as government legislation.
He said the bill will likely be presented in the House of Commons for debate next spring.
"We're retooling the bill now, working with the Justice Department," he added.
The bill would also reduce parole eligibility for those convicted of knife crimes.
Between 1999 and 2003 in Canada, 787 people were killed in knife attacks, compared with 823 killed by firearms.
in stabbing deaths, the accused pleads guilty to manslaughter in
exchange for the Crown dropping a first-degree or second-degree murder
charge. Unlike the murder charges, there is no minimum sentence for
In July, a 22-year-old Winnipeg woman was sentenced
to four years in prison for the throat-slashing death of an 18-year-old
The killing began with an argument over bathroom
use and ended with an unintentional single stab wound to the throat,
the court heard.
"In many cases, these end up being manslaughter
convictions," said Mr. Brown. "This bill is designed to create
mandatory prison sentences for manslaughter; other parts deal with
conditional sentences and statutory release."
The bill is a
direct response to the stabbing death of Andrew Moffitt, a 23-year
Brockville native who was killed when he interceded in an Ottawa bar
fight nearly eight years ago. Mr. Moffitt, a top student at the
University of Ottawa, was posthumously awarded the Governor General's
Award for Bravery.
Henry Danninger, now 33, was convicted of
manslaughter in Mr. Moffitt's death. He was released from custody last
month and returned to the Brockville area. Mr. Danninger was denied
parole about a year ago, but the parole board had no choice but to
release him because he had served two-thirds of his sentence.
Paulette Moffitt, Andrew's mother, said the family will continue to
push for a new law that would see mandatory minimum sentences for
crimes involving knives.
"We feel so strongly because Andy's
killer is out walking the streets now," Ms. Moffitt said yesterday. "If
there would have been a minimum sentence in manslaughter cases, he'd
still be in jail."
She said the family prepared themselves five times to face Mr. Danninger at scheduled parole hearings.
get ready and practise our victim impact statements, and then he'd
cancel. He was just playing a game with our family. It was very
stressful. If there were minimum sentences, he'd have to put in all his
time, and then ask for parole."
Mrs. Moffitt said her family has
not encountered Mr. Danninger since his release and has "tried not to
think about" him being back in Brockville.
"But I think about it every day because we didn't receive justice. A life is worth a lot more than that."