If any good can be salvaged from the senseless 1998 murder of
University of Ottawa student Andy Moffitt -- posthumously awarded the
Governor General's Award for Bravery -- it began yesterday with the
House of Commons going forward with a private member's bill advocating
tougher penalties for knife crimes.
"It's a piece of justice for Andy," his mother, Paulette Moffitt, said from Ottawa shortly after the vote.
"His spirit was with us today."
Bill C-393, which passed second reading by a vote of 140-116,
will now go to the justice committee for review, making it one vital
step closer to royal assent.
The bill was first introduced way back in 2004 by Tory
Leeds-Grenville MP Gord Brown, then a newly elected MP whose
constituency includes Brockville, where Andy Moffitt was born and where
his parents, Paulette and Rod Moffitt, have been campaigning hard to
see justice done for future victims.
Justice, after all, had not served their son very well.
As has been written here many times in the leadup to Bill
C-393's creation, Andy Moffitt was stabbed to death on the eve of
Christmas Eve almost 10 years ago when he innocently attempted to break
up an argument at an Ottawa bar, un aware it was between a drug dealer
and an associate whom he ac -cused of stealing his cache.
Moffitt knew neither man, even though Henry Danninger, the
drug dealer who would soon run what he called his "bad-assed knife"
through Moffitt's heart, also called Brockville his home.
Charged with second-degree murder, Danninger was released on
bail three months after his arrest, only to be re-arrested months later
for sick acts on his neighbour's home -- caught on camera -- in which
he repeatedly vandalized the property with buckets of human excrement.
Following his re-arrest, he was allowed to plead guilty to
manslaughter and, to add insult to injury, he was rewarded with
two-for-one credit not only for his time in custody, but also for time
he served under house arrest -- all while spewing human feces on his
As an aside, one of the MPs who voted against the bill
yesterday was Liberal MP David McGuinty, brother of Ontario Premier
Dalton McGuinty. It was in his riding that Andy Moffitt was so brutally
If Brown's bill eventually receives royal assent, however, it will do the following:
-Create a mandatory minimum sentence for carrying a criminally
concealed weapon, including a knife, with an escalating sentence for
-Require such sentences to be served consecutively to other
crimes committed at the same time or while on parole, and require the
convicted offender to serve one-half of the sentence -- instead of the
current one-third -- before being eligible for parole.
- Create a minimum mandatory sentence for manslaughter arising
from the use of a knife equivalent to the current requirement for
deaths caused by firearms.
- End the current practice of rewarding persons denied bail
because of past criminality or breaching bail extra pre-trial custody
"credit" -- currently two or three times time served -- at time of
- Authorize the National Parole Board (NPB) to provide victims
with information pertaining to offender conduct while in custody
relevant to their safety should parole be granted.
- Provide the NPB with authority to prevent offender abuse of
scheduling and adjournment of parole hearings -- done to frustrate
victim participation as authorized by Parliament.
"I am extremely pleased that this bill is moving forward,"
Brown said yesterday. "I am especially pleased for the victims'
families -- like the Moffitts in Brockville -- who are feeling more
Crime statistics for 2006 show the rate of homicides by young
people at its highest level since 1961. Those same stats also show that
44% of all homicides in this country are committed with knives, opposed
to 17% with guns.
In his speech to the Commons, pushing for the second reading
of his bill to pass, Brown reiterated comments in which Kingston Police
Chief Bill Closs -- a strong advocate of tougher and deterrent-like
penalties for knife crime -- told of how 75% of all criminal-injury
assaults in 19 Ontario jurisdictions, including Cornwall, Ottawa,
Kingston and Belleville, were knife related.
Closs minced no words.
He called it an "epidemic."
So, too, does OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino, who also wrote a letter in support of Gord Brown's bill.
Scott Newark, former Alberta Crown prosecutor, and special
counsel to the Ontario Office for Victims of Crime, assisted in the
drafting of the amending legislation.
"Today was one of those days when Parliament actually worked as it should," said Newark.
DRYDEN VOTES NO
He was surprised, however, at the nay vote of some MPs,
particularly former Montreal netminder and Toronto Maple Leaf
president, Ken Dryden, who failed in his attempt at the Liberal
"I think the folks at the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness,
who Ken Dryden supposedly worked with for years, will be shocked to see
he voted against a bill that gave victims more information and
prevented their abuse at parole hearings," said Newark.
"One too many pucks in the head, I suppose."