Cliff Derksen, longtime advocate for families of crime victims, has died

Cliff Derksen, a longtime advocate for families of victims of crime and the father of Candace Derksen, died on Sunday.

Cliff and Wilma Derksen founded Candace House in 2018 in memory of their daughter, who was killed nearly four decades ago.

The couple “dreamed of a place that could provide comfort, care and refuge during interactions with the justice system for families like theirs,” Candace House posted on their Facebook page, announcing Cliff Derksen’s death.

“He gave so much to his community and every person he met. His laugh, his art, his stories and his heart will be so deeply missed.”

His daughter Candace was 13 when she went missing while walking home from her school, Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute, on Nov. 30, 1984, in the Elmwood area of Winnipeg.

Candace Derksen, seen in an undated file photo, was found bound and frozen in a shed in Winnipeg in early 1985. (Family photo)

Her frozen body was found almost seven weeks later in a storage shed in an industrial area near the Nairn Overpass, less than 500 metres from her family’s home.

She was wrapped in blankets and her hands and feet were bound with twine. The cause of death was exposure.

No one was charged in her death until 2007, when police arrested Mark Edward Grant based on a DNA match.

A jury convicted Grant of the lesser charge of second-degree murder in February 2011, but that conviction was overturned in 2013 by the Manitoba Court of Appeal, which said the trial judge erred in not allowing the defence to present evidence that pointed to another possible killer — an unidentified man who tied up a second girl in 1985, when Grant was in custody.

A new trial was held and on Oct. 18, 2017, Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Karen Simonsen found Grant not guilty, calling the DNA evidence “fundamentally flawed.”

A sculpture by Cliff Derksen sits on a shelf inside Candace House. (Marianne Klowak)

Cliff Derksen was an artist and art teacher and some of his work adorns the walls inside Candace House. He said he used his art to help process his emotions after his daughter was killed.

CBC News has reached out to Candace House for comment.