Toronto Sun: - Closer to justice for knifings
Toronto Sun: - Closer to justice for knifings

June 5, 2008

Closer to justice for knifings


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 neighbour's property.

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 murdered.

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 repeat offences.

-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 sentencing.

- 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 hopeful."

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.


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 leadership.

"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."

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