"It this goes through, it's going to save a lot of heartache."
That's the feeling of Brockville's Paulette Moffitt, who watched
anxiously with her family in the gallery of the House of Commons on
Wednesday as Leeds-Grenville MP Gord Brown's private member's bill to
create mandatory minimum sentences for knife crimes received second
Moffitt said she and her husband Rod and sons Mike and Rod Jr.
were thrilled when members of the Liberal caucus joined Brown and his
government colleagues to send the bill to the justice committee for
study and review.
The matter is of particular interest to the Moffitts whose son
Andy was stabbed to death on Dec. 23, 1998 while trying to break up a
fight in Ottawa.
"This meant so much for us. It's like it's Andy's legacy," said Paulette Moffitt.
Despite the minority government's tenuous grip on Parliament, Moffitt hopes there will be no election called in the meantime.
If not, she feels there should be enough common ground found at
the committee to maintain the sentencing provisions and send it back to
the Commons for a vote next fall.
At that point, there's no reason not to expect it to receive a
similar show of support that approved second reading Wednesday by a 140
to 116 count, she said.
Moffitt, who has written to all MPs asking for their support,
said she was particularly disappointed the NDP voted against Brown's
bill despite their stated concern over increasing knife violence.
"Especially when you see knives are the number one choice of
weapon for violent crimes and there are many knife attacks in (urban)
NDP ridings," said Moffitt.
Even if the plug is pulled on Parliament, Moffitt said she and
her family will continue to fight for mandatory penalties and other
elements of the bill that protect victim's rights.
"We aren't giving up."
In particular, she applauds a provision to grant the National
Parole Board authority to prevent offenders from scheduling and
rescheduling parole hearings intended to frustrate victim participation
in the process.
She said that was especially a difficult time for her family
dealing with shifting parole schedules requested by Andy's killer,
Henry Danninger, who was paroled in August of 2006 after serving
two-thirds of a five-year sentence for manslaughter.
Brown praised the Moffitts for their efforts to gain broad
support for the bill and colleagues on both sides of the House for
voting in favour.
"If it saves one life, it will accomplish something," said
Brown, who feels minimum sentences send a message that will act as a
deterrent to people considering arming themselves with a knife.
Brown acknowledged a sudden election would move the process
back to square one but said he'd be willing to start it all again if he
"It's the right thing to do. I've seen first-hand with the
Moffitt family the impact (Andy's killing) has had on all of their
Brown said he is willing to work with the justice committee on
improving the bill and noted it has a number of elements to be
The bill calls for the creation of mandatory minimum sentences
for carrying a concealed weapon, including a knife, with escalating
sentences for repeat offences.
It would require sentences for knife crimes to be served
consecutively, rather than concurrently, to other crimes committed at
the same time or while on parole. In addition, a convicted offender
would have to serve half the sentence instead of one-third before
becoming eligible for parole.
Mandatory sentences would be created for manslaughter using a
knife equivalent to the current minimums for deaths caused by a
The bill would also bring to an end the practice of granting
credit for time in pre-trial custody for offenders with past records or
in breach of court conditions.
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