A peacemaker who lost his life five years ago trying to break up a fight
at an Ottawa bar has been honoured with the Governor General's Medal of
Andrew Moffitt, who died December 23, 1998 when he was stabbed at
Coyotes Bar, a popular hangout for university students, has been awarded the
While it can never replace their son, Rodney and Paulette Moffitt of
Brockville said they are proud to see him honoured.
"It's nice that he's being recognized for his bravery," said Paulette
"We think about him every day. We can't change what happened but at
least this way he'll never be forgotten. This is something good that came
out of something evil. This is a way to keep his memory alive."
"I also hope that young people will learn from this and take a lesson
that there's no reason for violence."
Moffitt died at the hands of drug dealer Henry Danninger who had come to
the Ottawa bar to confront a friend he suspected had stolen some of his
marijuana. While there, he got in a confrontation. Moffitt, 23, also of
Brockville, was in the bar celebrating the end of exams at the University of
The computer engineering student tried to break up the fight and was
fatally stabbed by Danninger.
Danninger was sentenced in March to five years for the killing, making
him eligible for parole two years after his sentencing.
Paulette Moffitt said Andrew was known among his friends for keeping the
peace even as a child.
She received a letter from one of Andrew's friends in Ottawa, where the
family used to live. The man recalled how he had been on Rideau Street
during Canada Day celebrations 12 years ago and saw a group of older people
fighting. Those involved in the melee were older and Moffitt's friends were
scared to speak up, but Andrew wasn't. It was part of his nature.
"He said Andy told the crowd that was fighting to relax and take it easy
and calm down," she said.
The family also hopes reigniting Moffitt's memory through the medal will
refocus attention on what they consider lenient sentencing in the justice
system for violent crime. The family remains shattered Danninger only got
five years for his crime and could be eligible for parole in 19 months.
"To take someone's life and only get five years and be able to get out
in two?" said Rodney Moffitt. "That just tells anyone who wants to go out
and shoot someone they can get out in two years."
"What kind of lesson is that?" Paulette added. "You can take a life and
be out of jail in less than five years?"
The medal is the latest in a series of honours for the late engineering
student, who had a bright future ahead of him with a job at Nortel Networks.
A scholarship set up at the University of Ottawa in Andrew's name by
family members has received tremendous support from the public. The
scholarship fund, which now has $158,000 in it, rewards second- and
third-year students studying computer or electrical engineering. The
scholarship recognizes not only academic excellence but a student's
compassionate efforts as well.
A California woman has also written a song in his memory.
Paulette Moffitt says the family will receive the medal September 12 in
Quebec City. The family plans to hold a ceremony of their own later at
Andrew's grave, when they will drape the medal over his headstone before
taking it home and displaying it in a prominent place.
Despite the honour for their son, Paulette says the hurt remains.
The inadequate sentence denied the family closure, she said.
"It's never going to end for us." she said. "It should have ended.
And in a way it's sad because most of the time 99 per cent of the
time the people receive these medals in person. They get to tell their
story. Andy doesn't."
"He shouldn't have had to die for something he believed in. If there
were more like him we'd be living in a better world."