After more than six years of waiting, the McCann family got to see some justice served on Wednesday as Travis Vader was sentenced to life in prison for the deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann.
Son Bret McCann described the trial as a “marathon” and certainly the family has had its share of ups and downs in the last six years. Perhaps most notably was Vader being found guilty of murder, only to have his charges reduced to manslaughter after Justice Denny Thomas had used an obsolete part of the Criminal Code.
A life sentence for manslaughter is rare in Canada, but appropriate given the nature of his crime and potential risk to the public. In Thomas’ decision he concluded that Vader is a dangerous and predatory criminal.
“Mr. Vader planned and then carried out a theft while armed with a loaded firearm,” wrote Thomas. “He subjectively knew the risk and threat that was involved. Once Mr. Vader was aware of the general nature of his victims, he also would have known they posed little risk to him. He was in control. The violence that followed was predatory.”
Vader has shown no remorse for the deaths of the McCanns and has taken every step to avoid justice being served, from mistrial applications to claims of charter violations. He still maintains his innocence. Although he’s been sentenced, we can expect more appeals and more adversity for the McCann family.
Bret and his family have had to endure a lot over the last six-and-a-half years. Through legal missteps from the Crown’s handling of evidence, a blunder in the judge’s decision, an unrepentant Vader and an usually long trial, the McCann family has been unwavering in the pursuit of justice. Bret and Mary-Ann attended nearly every day of the court case and even appeared via teleconference from Australia at the final sentencing hearing.
Following the verdict in September, they’ve also turned their attention to lobby Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to repeal unconstitutional laws from the Criminal Code to prevent future botched verdicts.
Although Vader was handed a life sentence, he could be eligible for parole in seven years – perhaps only about four with credit for time served to date. But McCann told the media he would continue to attend parole board hearings and continue to ask the same question he asked during his victim impact statement:
“Travis Vader where are the bodies of my parents?”
Until the family gets that final closure, justice will never fully be served. It seems unlikely that the McCann family will get that answer, but they will continue to fight and they will continue to advocate for improvements to the justice system. Despite mounds of adversity along the way, the McCanns have a remarkable amount of resilience and desire for justice. We hope, someday, they get that justice.