There’s no doubt the tragic and horrifying death of Tim McLean halfway between Brandon and Winnipeg on the Trans-Canada Highway in 2008 shocked the nation, if not the world.
And the way in which his killer, Vince Li, is being treated for the mental disorder that caused him to hack the 22-year-old Winnipeg man’s head from his body and eat his flesh in front of horrified passengers and police will cause much public debate for years to come.
And this week is no exception.
It seems that battle lines, of some sort, are being drawn up between those who would prefer that Li remain in secure custody for the rest of his natural life and those who believe Li can be treated and perhaps even released one day.
The latest round of debate was sparked last week when the Manitoba Review Board ruled he can begin receiving temporary passes that allow him to walk out of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre for escorted visits in the town of Selkirk. As reported in the Winnipeg Free Press, he was previously allowed to walk the hospital grounds under strict supervision.
Contrary to what you might think, McLean’s mother, Carol de Delley, doesn’t want Li executed.
She wants him treated for his schizophrenia within the confines of a secure mental-health facility as long as he lives.
Then there are the special interest groups and their supporters who have also begun to speak out.
Li was found not criminally responsible for the slaying that night aboard the Greyhound bus.
He was not receiving treatment when he killed de Delley’s son.
He was receiving treatment and taking his meds when he gave the interview that appears on this page, an interview that was conducted and edited by Chris Summerville, chief executive officer of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada.
The interview was conducted Sunday at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, in the foyer of Selkirk’s forensics unit, the Winnipeg Free Press reported yesterday. It was also widely distributed on Tuesday to electronic media.
Summerville brought Li a Chinese meal, the Free Press reported, which they the pair shared prior to the ‘formal’ portion of the interview.
We don’t know how much coaching — if any — Li received by the mental-health advocate during the ‘informal’ portion of the interview.
But the news story was unfortunately shaped for readers with this bit of editorializing: “Mr. Li was soft-spoken, using simple English as English is not his first language,” Summerville said. “His answers were rather direct and succinct, revealing a person who has given much contemplation to this tragedy and his guilt.”
In a Free Press preamble to the interview we republished on this page, Summerville further explained why he had decided Li’s story should be part of the broader conversation on the not-criminally-responsible debate.
That debate is driven by de Delley, who is championing the so-called Tim’s Law, which would keep people judged not criminally responsible for a homicide confined for life.
Said Summerville: “I think the media have been more favourable to the McLean family, probably because public sentiment is on their side and we as a country have entered a period of ‘tough on crime,’ with little attention paid to restorative justice, rehabilitation, recovery and redemption, or the influence and role of mental illness in this particular most unfortunate incident.”
To our minds, a most unfortunate incident would be if Vince Li was ever released into society and decided he had enough of the daily meds that make him not kill, but do make him a bit sleepy and a bit pudgy.
That would be most unfortunate.
Most unfortunate, indeed.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 23, 2012