MPP's knife bill debated in House
MPP's knife bill debated in House

    MPP's knife bill debated in House

    Posted By Ronald Zajac, Staff Writer

    A private member's bill inspired by the murder of a young Brockville man was debated for the first time in the House of Commons on Friday, while the victim's parents looked on.

    After a lengthy process that began during the previous Parliament, Bill C-393, Leeds-Grenville MPP Gord Brown's crime bill, had its first hour of debate in the House yesterday afternoon.

    "I'm optimistic that we can get this through," the Tory MP told The Recorder and Times shortly after the debate.

    The bill calls for mandatory minimum sentences for manslaughters committed with a concealed weapon.

    In addition to imposing a minimum five-year sentence for manslaughter in the stabbing death of an unarmed person, it proposes to give victims' families a greater voice in the parole hearing process and in determining presentence custody.

    The private member's bill stems from the stabbing death in Ottawa, two days before Christmas 1998, of 23-year-old Andrew Moffitt, of Brockville.

    Moffitt's killer, Henry Danninger, was sentenced to five years for manslaughter in connection with the crime. He was released from prison early, despite the pleas, at his parole hearing, of Moffitt's parents, Brockville residents Rodney and Paulette Moffitt.

    Brown's bill got first reading in 2005, when he was in Opposition, but died on the order paper when the former Liberal government fell in a non-confidence vote.

    Yesterday's debate was the first time the bill, which is now in second reading, made it to the Commons floor.

    It is now up for a second hour of debate, which Brown expects will happen in the next three weeks or so.

    After that, members will vote on the bill - either immediately after that second hour or at a later date - and it will be referred to the Commons justice committee if it passes.

    Criminologists and other practitioners say "certainty of consequence" is a better deterrent to criminals than "potential severity of consequence," Brown told the House in his opening speech Friday.

    "This bill sends a message that there will be clear and certain negative consequences for persons criminally concealing and using knives."

    The MP noted his bill would also require a delay in parole eligibility from one-third of the imposed sentence to one-half.

    Brown told the House that Danninger was let out on bail less than three months after his arrest and was re-arrested for breaching his bail and for committing new crimes.

    At sentencing, noted Brown, the killer was given credit for the time he spent in pretrial custody, including for time spent after breaching bail and committing new crimes.

    "The killer was given extra credit for being on bail - bail which he breached," added Brown.

    Sentencing courts are not required to give repeat offenders, or people who breach bail conditions, credit for pretrial custody, said the MP.

    "Reward for bad behaviour is unacceptable."

    MPs from all three Opposition parties responded to Brown's speech.

    The local MP said it is hard to "get a handle" on how much support the proposed legislation will get in the minority Parliament.

    Brown said he is happy to see the bill even get on the floor amid the continuing talk in recent months of whether or not the Liberals would force an election.

    Rodney and Paulette Moffitt were on hand to watch the debate, as were their children Rod Jr. and Mike.

    "It was exciting that it's got to second reading. It's been a long, long time in the making," Paulette Moffitt said last night after getting home from Ottawa.

    Although Opposition members criticized the bill, she remains hopeful it will find enough supporters in the House.

    Getting tough on knife crimes has become an important cause for the Moffitt family since the tragedy.

    "The knife has taken over first place as the weapon of choice for offenders across the country," said Paulette Moffitt.

    "People have to realize that what happened to Andy can happen to anybody's son or daughter."

    Moffitt is already thinking ahead to the 10-year anniversary of the terrible event later this year, and says it would help provide the family with closure if the bill should pass before then.

    "(It's) time for Andy to rest in peace," she said.

  • Published in the Saturday, April 12, 2008 edition of the Brockville Recorder & Times.

   Letter to the Media
   Bill C-393
   Our Angel
   Thank You
   Mike's Speech
   Memorial Speech
   Andy's Story
   Our Brother