Bret McCann calls for changes to Criminal Code following Travis Vader verdict

Click to play video: 'Bret McCann calls for changes to Criminal Code following Travis Vader verdict'
Bret McCann calls for changes to Criminal Code following Travis Vader verdict
WATCH ABOVE Bret McCann, the son of Lyle and Marie McCann, is calling for the government to make changes to the Criminal Code to remove invalid sections. It comes after a judge convicted Travis Vader of second-degree murder in his parents' death citing a section of the Criminal Code that was deemed unconstitutional. Julia Wong reports – Dec 18, 2016

Bret McCann, the son of Lyle and Marie McCann,  is calling on the federal government to make changes to remove inoperative and unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code.

In a joint media conference with St. Albert MP Michael Cooper Sunday afternoon, the pair called on the government to take action.

“Various sections of the code have been declared unconstitutional but the associated law was never repealed or removed from the code,” McCann said.

“I think it is ludicrous that these booby traps are allowed to just exist in the Criminal Code. As far as I know, the last time any section of the code was removed or repealed, to correct errors like this, was decades ago in the 1980s.

“What we’re suggesting here is that the government could easily take steps today to eliminate the known and invalid sections of the Criminal Code.”

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Watch below: In hopes of avoiding future problems like he and his family dealt with with Travis Vader’s conviction, Bret McCann, son of Lyle and Marie McCann, is calling for unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code to be removed.

Click to play video: 'Son of Lyle and Marie McCann calls for changes to the Criminal Code'
Son of Lyle and Marie McCann calls for changes to the Criminal Code

The call for action comes after Travis Vader, who was first convicted with second-degree murder in the deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann, was convicted under an outdated section of the Criminal Code.

“A section that had been found to be in contravention of the Charter, unconstitutional, 26 years earlier,” Cooper said. “And yet, there it was in the Criminal Code on its face purporting to be the law. And so, six and a half years later, the McCann family continues to wait for justice. It shouldn’t have happened and it can be prevented.”

READ MORE: Travis Vader: legal expert says error leaves verdict open to appeal

Watch below: St. Albert MP Michael Cooper calls for Criminal Code reform

Click to play video: 'St. Albert MP Michael Cooper calls for Criminal Code reform'
St. Albert MP Michael Cooper calls for Criminal Code reform

The section of the Criminal Code Justice Denny Thomas cited to convict Vader of second-degree murder, Section 230, was found unconstitutional in 1990 by the Supreme Court.

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“When an experienced, senior court judge like Justice Thomas can’t figure out what the law is because the Criminal Code is so clogged up and cluttered with obsolete sections, how is the average citizen supposed to know what the law really is?” McCann questioned.

READ MORE: Travis Vader verdict: what is Section 230 of the Criminal Code?

McCann said his family was elated with the second-degree murder conviction, six-and-a-half years after his parents’ death, but soon learned a mistake had been made.

“Our thoughts ranged from, ‘Does this mean a mistrial? Is this it? Is this the end of it?” McCann recalled. “To have the possibility that he may be free after obviously being found to have killed my parents, that was just devastating.

“It was quite a roller coaster and we were all thinking that, worst case could be that he gets off.”

Vader’s conviction was later changed to manslaughter. Sentencing is currently underway.

RELATED: Travis Vader: legal expert says error leaves verdict open to appeal

Law professor Steven Penney said the removal of the unconstitutional laws would be a positive development, however, he cautions the ripple effects of such an action may not extend that far.

“I don’t think anyone should exaggerate the significance of this. It’s something that should have been done a long time ago. But it’s not something that has affected the day-to-day operations of the criminal courts,” he said.

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“Lawyers and judges have been aware these provisions have been unconstitutional for some time. It doesn’t take a whole lot of digging to figure that out. In an ideal world, these provisions would have been repealed and hopefully they will be repealed. But it’s not the case that this has caused havoc or confusion or inefficiency within the system apart from this Vader case.”

However, Penney thinks the benefits outweigh the negatives, saying there is no advantage to leave the obsolete laws in the Criminal Code.

“It’s probably not fair to say there have been a great many cases where there have been major legal errors because of these provisions – I don’t think that is the case. But even one case of this nature could potentially have been prevented had Parliament acted earlier to repeal these laws.”

While McCann said his family is satisfied that justice is being served, he said he is prepared to go the distance to see changes to the Criminal Code, in honour of his parents and so other families can be spared from legal marathons like this case.

“I thought, ‘What possible good could come out of this? What possible good could I do about this?” he said. “I see this as trying to do something positive, trying to correct something that has been there for years and years and trying to do something positive in the memory of my parents.”

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Cooper said the justice committee wrote a letter to the justice minister on Oct. 6 calling for legislation to be brought forward to repeal outdated sections of the Criminal Code. He said the committee has not received a response.

“I will continue, when parliament resumes in January, to press the government to act and I hope that they get that message and listen so that what happened in the McCann case doesn’t happen again,” Cooper said.

“At the very least, Canadians should be able to expect that the Criminal Code is an accurate reflection of the state of the law and right now it isn’t.”

Global News reached out to the Department of Justice for a comment on the campaign to reform the Criminal Code. A spokesperson said a review of the Criminal Code is already underway.

“Earlier this year [Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould] instructed her officials at 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. This review is ongoing and is one part of the larger review of the criminal justice system that she is undertaking,” reads a statement.
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Lyle and Marie McCann, in their late 70s, vanished on their way to a camping trip in British Columbia in July 2010. In the days after they vanished, their burned-out motorhome and a vehicle they had been towing were discovered in the woods near Edson. But their bodies have never been found.

READ MORE: The McCann murders and other cases without bodies

Vader’s sentencing hearing, which began on Dec. 12, continues Monday and is expected to last through the week.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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