as recent events show, can be cruel. So why should our government
sanction one more exquisite torture for a few of our citizens?
most of us were getting ready for Christmas in the dying days of the
old year, the family of Andy Moffitt was steeling itself for a grim but
necessary ordeal. Henry Danninger, the man who brutally stabbed their
child to death in an Ottawa bar in 1998, was scheduled for a parole
in itself is a travesty of major proportions. Just 20 months after
receiving a 5-year sentence for Andy's senseless murder (the young man
died trying to break up a fight which earned him a posthumous Governor
General's Award for Bravery), Danninger was slated to go before a
parole hearing on Dec. 8 to review his penalty. After less than two
years in jail, I guess he felt he had suffered enough.
so the Moffitts. No court can change the verdict Danninger's crime
handed out to their family. Their way of honouring their son is to be
there for him every step of the way, no matter how painful. So when
Danninger planned to go before the parole board, the Moffitts planned
to be there to remind a system that often forgets the enormity of what
has happened here and what has been lost.
standing up for Andy yet again, the Moffitts had to put Christmas on
hold and review an event which would turn any heart to stone. There are
the practical details -- making arrangements with employers, juggling
responsibilities for their other children, marshalling friends and
supporters, the expenses, and rearranging their daily schedules to
accommodate the trip to court.
behind all the pain of reopening the pink scars of having lost their
son was this monstrous possibility: As a consequence of the hearing,
Henry Danninger might be free on parole less than two years into his
takes courage to continue under these conditions and the Moffitts have
plenty of that. But when Henry Danninger abruptly cancelled his parole
hearing, all the gathering of strength, all of the steely resolve, all
of the planning came crashing down in a heap of heartbreaking
the inmate agreed to a new date for his parole hearing, the Moffitts
regrouped and prepared for a Jan. 14 date with the devil. Except that
the devil was proving capricious. Just before the re-scheduled event, a
terse letter from the National Parole Board informed Paulette Moffitt
that the killer had changed the date yet again. He would now face his
hearing on Feb. 22 -- assuming, of course, he feels like it.
the sad fraternity of those who have lost loved ones to violent crime,
Henry Danninger's heartless manipulation is an old story. Ten years
ago, William Coon, who was then 17, shot dead Frankie Battaglia and Rob
O'Connor in the Battaglia home. Coon said he had shot the boys because
they had "pissed him off."
presiding judge found the crime so cold-blooded and so heinous that he
moved the young offender to adult court, where Coon received a double
conviction for first-degree murder.
Battaglia and O'Connor families, like the Moffitts, wanted to be there
when Coon went before the parole board. By 2002, he had yanked the
families' chain 10 times -- first arranging, then cancelling the
hearings. The integrity of the parole system seems to require the
perpetrator calling the shots, turning the whole exercise into a
disgusting display of dirty pool.
Martin government, the Justice Department, Corrections Canada, and the
National Parole Board have much to answer for in the justice portfolio.
Justice Department must explain why thousands of cases where criminal
prosecutions are warranted are being pulled back from crown prosecutors
who are appalled at the system's irresponsibility.
Correctional Service of Canada must tell us why it continues to recycle
old lies about how often convicts reoffend, and by implication, how
effective its restorative justice model really is.
National Parole Board must tell us why, between 1975 and 1997, it was
party to the murders of 367 innocent Canadians who died at the hands of
inmates released from prison as sufficiently rehabilitated to walk our
understand how those who create dysfunctional bureaucracies
instinctively circle the wagons to protect their empires and their own
self-interest. I also understand that there is no political lion on the
scene who will tackle this country's shameful justice system and all
its big problems.
surely even Paul Martin must realize that Paulette Moffitt shouldn't be
dancing to the tune played by a killer merely because she wants to
stand up for her dead child's place in our justice system, such as it
shouldn't have a role in scheduling their own parole hearings. But even
assuming they will continue to do so, independent MP Chuck Cadman had
it right with his doomed Bill-C-233.
that bill, any inmate who changed the date of his parole hearing for
frivolous reasons would not have been permitted to reapply for a new
one for two years.
For now, the chain is firmly in the inmates' hands. Be sure they will continue to pull it.