Winnipeg Sun: - 'Friendly fire' really does hurt
Winnipeg Sun: - 'Friendly fire' really does hurt

September 9, 2008

'Friendly fire' really does hurt

By Robert Marshall

Stephen Harper believes he can't get on with the business of running the country with his government's minority. His strategy is to go to the polls, get a fresh mandate, roll up his sleeves and get busy.

Such a gamble, though, can cause collateral damage. People and hope hit by friendly fire.

That's the case with Bill C-393. Left behind on the table as it was inching along into the law books.

The bill was inspired by the murder of a rising star.

Andy Moffitt, a University of Ottawa engineering student, was killed when he tried to calm a Christmastime disturbance at his local bar. His efforts were answered by neighbourhood junkie and dealer, Henry Danninger, who plunged his "bad-assed knife" into Andy's chest.

The circus that followed saw the killer get bail. While on bail he broke the law repeatedly over a three-week period by throwing buckets of human feces and urine at a neighbour's home and vehicle. Sure, his bail was yanked. But he still received double credit for his subsequent time in remand and incredibly even for the weeks he spent on bail collecting and tossing excrement. Danninger arrived in prison, clicked his heels and before he knew it was up for parole. His torment of Andy's family continued as he jerked around with his parole hearing dates, cancelling and rescheduling at the last minute. Andy's family went on the offensive. They rallied the media. They rallied Parliament. They wrote letters -- 450 of them.

MP Gord Brown took up the cause. The result was Bill C-393. Among other things it would have created a mandatory sentence for carrying a criminally concealed weapon. It would have required a minimum sentence for manslaughter arising from the use of a knife. The National Parole Board would have had the authority to prevent the abuse caused when cons schedule then adjourn parole hearings in an effort to frustrate victim participation. Andy's killer cancelled five times.

As important, it would have ended the current practice of rewarding persons who were denied bail because of past criminality and never again compensate a killer with credit for the time spent on bail committing other crimes. It's hard to believe we need a law to enact this bundle of common sense. Harder still to believe -- and consider this as you make your way to the polls -- that heavyweight Liberal Ken Dryden, the NDP's Pat "let's-get-rid-of-the-penny" Martin and others voted against these proposals.

Despite opposition the bill was getting closer to Royal Assent but is now dead in its tracks.

Andy's mom, Paulette, who spearheaded her family's effort, wrote last week to express her disappointment.

"With all the news that an election is imminent, I feel defeated -- I feel I failed Andy. We are close to losing something that my family and I have fought for since Andy's murder -- Bill C-393 ... When we saw Andy for the last time, laying in his coffin, we promised him justice would prevail. We broke that promise to him ... We knew we couldn't fix it for Andy ... In his memory we could make sure no other victims or their families ever have to go through the hell we experienced with the justice system ... Bill C-393 was one step closer to justice. There is nothing else we can do now. Bill C-393 will die."

Friendly fire does indeed hurt.

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