Vince Li, the mentally ill man found not criminally responsible for a random killing on board a Greyhound bus, is about to take his biggest steps yet as he tries to work his way back full time into the community.
The provincial review board released its decision Thursday, agreeing to all of the enhanced freedoms requested earlier in the week at Li's annual hearing. Three key changes have been approved:
-- Li will now be allowed unescorted passes into the city of Selkirk, on an incremental basis beginning at 30 minutes and up to a full day at a time. Currently, Li has been allowed off-site only while escorted. He has taken more than 100 such leaves into Selkirk without incident.
-- Li will now be allowed more relaxed escorted passes into Winnipeg. Currently, Li must be given one-to-one supervision. Dr. Steven Kremer is recommending Li be placed under "general supervision," which will be one worker for every three patients.
-- Li will now be moved from a locked facility at Selkirk into a more relaxed, unlocked facility.
Li will also be allowed to continue receiving escorted passes into Lockport and area beaches, as has been the case for the past year. All of these conditions apply for the next year and will be reviewed again in early 2015. Selkirk officials have the right to suspend the privileges if there are any issues or concerns.
On Monday, Li was described by his treatment team as a "model patient" who no longer suffers from the type of hallucinations that triggered the July 2008 attack near Portage la Prairie.
Kremer, who has worked closely with Li at Selkirk Mental Health Centre, said it was time to loosen the reins. The Crown wasn't objecting to the recommendations.
"Mr. Li has done everything that's been asked of him," prosecutor Susan Helenchilde told court. She conceded her department is in a difficult position given it represents the public and Li's actions were so brutal.
"This is one of the most ghoulish tragedies in Canadian history," she said. However, Helenchilde conceded Li's best interests must be considered following his not-criminally-responsible finding in court.
Li was found not criminally responsible for the beheading of Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus near Portage. A judge found Li suffered hallucinations from untreated schizophrenia at the time of the unprovoked attack and ordered him held at the Selkirk centre.
To that extent, Kremer said Monday Li knows the importance of taking his medications for schizophrenia and has shown great insight into what triggered the attack. Li has been deemed a low risk to reoffend, and Kremer said the only security concern as Li ventures out into the community is some member of the public might attack him.
McLean's family has been a vocal critic of Li's relaxed freedoms and has pushed for tougher federal legislation. McLean's mom, Carol de Delley, said she believes mentally ill killers such as Li must be held indefinitely in a hospital.
The federal government introduced Bill C-54, the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act, last year in response to Li's case. The bill would create a new category of high-risk offenders who can't be considered for release until a court agrees to revoke the designation.
They would not have a review of their status for three years, would not be given unescorted passes and would only get escorted passes under narrow circumstances.
Federal Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney slammed the review board's decision and defended Bill C-54 in a release Thursday evening.
"The provincial decision to grant Mr. Li unescorted trips around town is an insult to Tim McLean, the man he beheaded and cannibalized. Canadians expect that their justice system will keep them safe from high-risk individuals," the release said.
The release promised Bill C-54 will protect the public from high-risk offenders and put public safety first in sentencing.
"Unlike the Opposition, our Conservative government believes that those who commit serious and heinous crimes must be kept off our streets. Our government has always put victims first and always will. The people of Manitoba deserve no less."