The Current

'We all have to live with the decision': mother of Candace Derksen on retrial's not guilty verdict

"It just needs to be over."

'It's over for us': Wilma Derksen on judge's decision

5 years ago
Duration 1:10
A Manitoba judge has found Mark Edward Grant not guilty of second-degree murder in the 1984 death of 13-year-old Candace Derksen.

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For more than three decades, Wilma Derksen and her family have been on a journey of forgiveness. 

On Wednesday, that forgiveness was tested as Derksen and family prepared to hear the verdict in the second trial of the man charged with killing her daughter Candace.

Related: Timeline of Candace Derksen's case

"We realized going into the verdict and the judgment in the trial room that it could go either way, and we were prepared ... well, we thought we were prepared for both ways but either way would have held a new complexity in the decision," Derksen tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti. 

"So we were prepared to be in some kind of transition."

A small crowd of family and friends gathered at the Derksen home, Oct. 18. In total, 33 candles were lit to represent the number of years Candace Derksen has been gone. (Julianne Runne/CBC)

The day of the verdict, Derksen and her husband, Cliff, planned a lighting of 33 candles surrounded by family and friends.

"And then when they left, Cliff and I just watched the 33 candles representing the 33 years that we've been in this, and, oh, they just fed our souls and it was just beautiful."

Related: Candace Derksen's parents hold onto love with candles

Candace was abducted on her way home from school in November 1984, prompting one of the largest missing person searches in Winnipeg's history. 

Seven weeks later, Candace's body was discovered, bound and abandoned, in a lumber shed not far from her home.  She had died of exposure. 

Candace Derksen was 13-years-old when when she disappeared on her way home from school, in November 1984. Her frozen body was found in an industrial storage shed, not far from the family's home. (CBC)

In 2011, Mark Grant was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to 25 years in prison.  But he was granted a new trial on appeal.

On Oct. 18, Winnipeg Justice Karen Simonsen found Mark Grant not guilty of second-degree murder. The DNA evidence linking him to the murder was deemed flawed.  Grant is now free.

After the verdict, Derksen's husband Cliff said he respected the judges's decision saying, "She made the call that she had to make." 
Candace Derksen and her little sister Odia Reimer (née Derksen) in 1980. (Derksen family)

"We're glad she made the decision she did ... we all have to live with the decision she made, and I think we can live with it," Derksen says. 

Derksen has never spoken to Grant but says the verdict gives him a second chance.

"I hope that he has learned as much as we have and takes life in a new way," she tells Tremonti.

Her faith in humanity comes from the belief that "every human being is important and valuable and they're here for a reason."

"I have met many people in prison and have come to understand that there is humanity there ... and there's always a story," she says.

Derksen does not want the Crown to appeal this verdict. She says the disintegration of the second trial and also the first would just continue.

"So if it hasn't been proven up to now, it probably never will," she says.

Wilma Derksen told the CBC faith has given her strength, but admitted a feeling of darkness has never been far away. (Julianne Runne/CBC)

"We don't need to waste any more time on it ... This is an expensive process. So it's not only our emotional toll and the time that it takes but it just, it just needs to be over."

RelatedHow writing helped Wilma Derksen forgive her daughter's murderer

Through her journey of forgiveness, Derksen says it's a process that can at times arrive "at the peak of freedom and perfect love."

But it's never easy, she says. 

"Forgiveness isn't about saying it's okay. It's not, you know, moving to a lowest common denominator," Derksen explains.

"I think forgiveness is about saying, 'Okay, that was not good, and I'm going to change and I'm going to be better.'"

"And it demands I think the same of the other person."

Wilma Derksen's latest book is The Way of Letting Go: One Woman's Walk Toward Forgiveness.

Listen to the full conversation above.

This segment was produced by Winnipeg network producer Suzanne Dufresne.