The Ghost Provisions in the Canadian Criminal Code: Thoughts on the Travis Vader Case
A robbery gone wrong which captivated the whole country in 2010, the disappearance of Lyle and Marie McCann, experienced yet another low three weeks ago: the flawed verdict handed down by Justice Denny Thomas on the Vader Case. On the facts of the case, on July 3, 2010, Lyle and Marie McCann, a couple from St. Albert, Alberta was planning a family camping trip to Abbotsford, B.C. Two days later, on July 5, the RCMP discovered the couple’s burned motor-home 200km west of St. Albert, in a bush trail near Edson, Alberta. Their bodies were never found. Offices investigated Travis Vader as a person of interest and subsequently arrested him in connection with the double murder.
The Queen’s Bench Court in Alberta found Travis Vader on September 15, 2016 guilty beyond reasonable doubt on charges of second-degree murder. Notwithstanding the verdict, the defense intends to appeal the charges based on an error on the part of Justice Thomas. The defense will appeal on the grounds that:
The Vader Case was Alberta’s first criminal trial decision broadcasted and streamed live. Unfortunately, the case also exposes a gap in the Canadian legal system: the continued existence in print and online of unconstitutional provisions of the Criminal Code. Although Section 230 has not been in force since 1990, it has never been repealed and remains in the Criminal Code.
The repeal of provisions like these remain a responsibility of the Parliament. However, the errors made in the Vader Case could have easily been avoided with proper legal research methods or even a simple Google search.
The issues raised by the the mistakes of the Vader Case demonstrate that our Code is due for repair. That being said, while we patiently wait for Parliament to update the Code, the case serves as a reminder of the importance of following basic legal research methodology. A decision in a mistrial application in the Vader Case is due to be ruled on October 31, 2016.