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Bret McCann wants removal of zombie laws

The son of a slain St. Albert couple is asking the government to make removing zombie laws a priority. Bret McCann, the son of Lyle and Marie McCann, wants the government to take action to remove the so-called “zombie laws" from the Criminal Code.
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Bret McCann, Trudy Holder and Lance McCann stand with the sculpture 'Darling', a memorial that celebrates the lives of their parents Lyle and Marie McCann.

The son of a slain St. Albert couple is asking the government to make removing zombie laws a priority. Bret McCann, the son of Lyle and Marie McCann, wants the government to take action to remove the so-called “zombie laws" from the Criminal Code. Zombie laws are sections of the Criminal Code that have been deemed unconstitutional. McCann spoke with St. Albert MP and the Opposition’s shadow deputy minister of justice Michael Cooper over the weekend at the unveiling of the sculpture honouring the couple’s life. McCann was concerned to hear the legislation had not moved since the spring. McCann said that he hopes this bill will pass and be something positive to come out of the death of his parents. “There was a lot of angst and … that we went through. I don’t want to see somebody else go through it,” McCann said. In March Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould introduced legislation to remove seven unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code but there has been no movement on the file since the spring. The proposed legislation would remove seven unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code, including the one that impacted the McCann family. A zombie law in the Criminal Code is what delayed and derailed the two second-degree murder verdicts of Travis Vader in the death of Lyle and Marie McCann. The criminal trial of the disappearance and death of McCann’s parents spanned six years and was finally wrapped up with a life sentence on Sept. 15, 2016. That night the McCann family went home to mark the closure of the case with their friends and family. It wasn’t long before they began to see people on social media calling into question the verdict. “I just remember that whole feeling of elation and then it was torn away from us. By the end of the evening we were wondering what was going to happen here. That anxiety built up,” McCann said. When Queen’s Bench Justice Denny Thomas delivered his decision he cited a section of the Criminal Code, which had been deemed unconstitutional by the court system 26 years earlier. The verdict was eventually substituted for two counts of manslaughter. Despite being deemed unconstitutional, these zombie laws remain in the Criminal Code because there is no regular government mechanism to remove them. Cooper said in a statement that the lack of progress is “inexcusable” and a result of “lack of leadership" by the justice minister. “If the Liberals wanted to pass this bill, they could very easily do so. After what happened to the McCann family, one would think that the Liberals would make the passage of Bill C-39 a priority. Sadly, they haven’t. The time for action is now. If action isn’t taken it will be only a matter of time before another judge applies an inoperative section of the Criminal Code and another family is victimized like the McCanns,” Cooper said. Cooper asked Wilson-Raybould about the bill at the at a standing committee on justice and human rights meeting on Wednesday. Wilson-Raybould said that she is committed to advocating for the movement of the bill through the parliamentary process.


Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Jennifer Henderson is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Great West Media based in St. Albert, Alta.
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