Doctors are recommending increased freedom for Vince Li, the mentally ill man found not criminally responsible for a random killing on board a Greyhound bus.
Li appeared in a Winnipeg courtroom Monday for his annual review board hearing. He was described by his treatment team as a "model patient" who no longer suffers from the type of hallucinations that triggered the 2008 attack near Portage la Prairie.
'This is one of the most ghoulish tragedies in Canadian history'
Dr. Steven Kremer, who has worked closely with Li at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, said it's time to loosen the reins. He proposed three suggestions:
- Li be allowed unescorted passes into the city of Selkirk, on an incremental basis. Currently, Li is allowed off-site only while escorted. He has taken more than 100 such leaves into Selkirk without incident.
- Li be allowed more relaxed escorted passes into Winnipeg. Currently, Li must be given one-to-one supervision. Kremer is recommending Li be placed under "general supervision," which will be one worker for every three patients.
- Li be moved from a locked facility at Selkirk into a more relaxed, unlocked facility.
The review board expects to make its decision within a week. But the Crown isn't objecting to the recommendations.
"Mr. Li has done everything that's been asked of him," prosecutor Susan Helenchilde told court Monday. 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 in July 2008 near Portage la Prairie. 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 that some member of the public might attack him.
The family of Li's victim, Tim McLean, were in court Monday but not allowed to make a presentation to the board. They have been vocal critics of Li's relaxed freedoms and have 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.
The law would make public safety the main consideration in such cases and ensure victims would be notified when the offender is released. The law could also be applied retroactively.
Advocates said the bill further stigmatizes the mentally ill, incorrectly suggests the likelihood of reoffending is connected to the brutality of the crime and makes people unnecessarily afraid of people who have a mental illness.