Vince Li, who dismembered a sleeping stranger on a Greyhound bus less than four years ago, is about to take his first steps back into the community.
Li, 44, was found not criminally responsible for the July 2008 killing of Tim McLean near Portage la Prairie. A judge later ruled Li was suffering hallucinations from untreated schizophrenia at the time of the unprovoked attack.
The Free Press obtained a copy of the Manitoba review board decision Thursday grants Li temporary passes that will allow him to walk out of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre for visits in the community of Selkirk.
"The residents of Selkirk are not endangers by Mr. Li being released," his lawyer, Alan Libman, told the Free Press Thursday afternoon.
The decision – which was released to the public later in the day – comes on the heels of his appearance in court Monday afternoon for his annual review board hearing. His treatment team made two major recommendations, neither of which the Crown opposed and both of which have now been endorsed by the review board.
The first proposal involves giving Li extended privileges within the Selkirk facility, based on the rapid progress he is making while receiving medical care. Since last summer, he has been allowed passes out of his locked forensic unit to walk on hospital grounds under the direct supervision of a peace officer. Now, doctors say he is doing so well with the daily 60-to-90-minute walks, he should be allowed general supervision like any other patient at the hospital.
The second proposal involves allowing Li to take 30-minute excursions within Selkirk away from the hospital, provided he is accompanied at all times by a peace officer and a nurse. His doctors say those passes can be extended by up to 15 minutes a week, provided there are no incidents and he continues to make great strides. There's no indication the community would be given any notice about where or when he would be let out. In fact, his doctors suggested the accompanying peace officers be allowed to wear ordinary clothes to avoid drawing attention to Li.
"The review board has taken into consideration the need to protect the public from dangerous persons," the written decision states. "The treatment team of the opinion his condition is stable and that it would be appropriate and safe for him to leave the locked ward."
Li’s passes could eventually be extended to a full day provided there are no issues, the board ruled.
McLean's mother, Carol de Delley, attended Monday's hearing wearing a white T-shirt bearing her slain son's photo. She said it now seems inevitable Li will regain his full freedom in the near future and called it "ironic and ridiculous" that the mental health system that failed to properly protect society from Li is now recommending he slowly be reintegrated into society.
"Letting him go puts the rest of the public at risk," she said. De Delley has long been advocating for mentally ill killers such as Li to be held indefinitely in a hospital, regardless of any progress they may show.
Li's treating psychiatrist, Dr. Steven Kremer, told the review board Li is on medication and experiencing no symptoms or hallucinations. He has been diagnosed as having a 0.8 per cent chance of violently reoffending in the next seven years, according to risk assessments done on him.
"The privileges being asked for... would not place the public at high risk," Kremer told the board. "He has done very well. He has been a robust responder. He understands if he were not to take his medication, he would experience a deterioration."
Kremer and another psychiatrist described Li as a model patient who has had no incidents with staff or other patients and has shown great insight into what he's done. Li has improved his English and taken several occupational therapy programs, including job training and meal preparation.
Crown attorney Susan Helenchilde said she had no grounds to oppose the recommendations.
"The Crown may not be opposed, but I certainly am," de Delley said.
Chris Summerville, chief executive officer of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, also attended Monday's hearing and has met with Li several times in the hospital. He spoke outside court and said he understands the public's concerns but doesn't believe they are at risk.
"His risk of reoffending is very low. Vince is not a criminal, he's a patient. Patients get better, and Vince has been an ideal patient," he said.