Son of Vader’s victims demands action from Ottawa on Criminal Code ‘zombie laws’

After Vader verdict, victim calls out Ottawa

OTTAWA — A man whose parents vanished in 2010 took the federal government to task Wednesday for failing to strip the Criminal Code of unconstitutional “zombie laws” like the one that turned Travis Vader’s conviction from murder to manslaughter.

Bret McCann said he intends to make it his mission to push Ottawa to wipe out the outdated clauses in the hope that some good will come out of the 2010 disappearance of his parents, Lyle and Marie McCann.

And he’s not mincing words about Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who he said has yet to acknowledge his lobbying efforts.

“I mean, this is just a question of basic politeness,” McCann told a conference call shortly after Vader — now convicted of manslaughter — was sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole for seven years.

“A terrible mistake was made by the court system on Sept. 15 and I had thought that the roller-coaster that the court system has put our family through for years would somehow elicit a more respectful response from my Canadian government.”

Wilson-Raybould extended her “deepest sympathies” to the family in a statement Wednesday night. 

“I have already instructed my officials in the Department of Justice to conduct a review of Criminal Code provisions found to be unconstitutional with a view to updating the Criminal Code to reflect these decisions,” Wilson-Raybould said. “Cases like this highlight the crucial need for such a review.”

Following the botched verdict, Wilson-Raybould promised a review of unconstitutional Criminal Code provisions.

“This initiative is ongoing and is one part of the larger review of the criminal justice system that I am undertaking,” she said Wednesday. “I look forward to substantive changes in the months to come.”

Conservative MP and deputy justice critic Michael Cooper said legislation to repeal such laws would be uncomplicated and shouldn’t have to wait for the minister’s larger review of the justice system to be completed.

The elder McCanns, in their late 70s, disappeared after setting out from their Edmonton-area home for a camping trip to British Columbia in July 2010.

Their burned-out motorhome and a vehicle they had been towing were discovered in the days that followed, although their bodies have never been found.

Vader’s murder conviction was replaced with a manslaughter verdict last September because a judge had inadvertently applied a law that was declared unconstitutional decades ago.

In originally finding Vader guilty of murder, Justice Denny Thomas mistakenly used Section 230 of the Criminal Code, which the Supreme Court of Canada struck down in 1990, but which has never been removed from the Criminal Code.

McCann wants the government to get rid of laws that have been struck down, but still sit on the books.

“The pain endured by my family because of this co-called zombie law was enormous,” he said.

“While it seemed unbelievable at the time, I have since learned that there are several other, many other, sections of the Criminal Code which are obsolete or have been deemed unconstitutional.”

McCann said he is determined to get things changed.

“I’m going to try and continue to elevate the public profile of this issue, this issue of zombie law, and hopefully the government will become motivated to act,” he said.

“I’ve taken this on as my mission, you know, for the next year or so. And I hope something good will come out of … what’s happened to my parents.”

 

The Canadian Press

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