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Added privileges for Li an 'insult' to McLean's family: Bezan

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James Bezan, M.P. for Selkirk-Interlake

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James Bezan, M.P. for Selkirk-Interlake Photo Store

OTTAWA – Manitoba MP James Bezan said granting additional privileges to Vince Li is an "insult" to the victim’s family.

Bezan, the Conservative MP for Selkirk-Interlake, released a statement today after a provincial review board Monday was told Li is a low risk to reoffend. Psychiatrists and lawyers told the board Li should be granted increased privileges including unescorted walks on the grounds of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, and escorted walks into Lockport and Winnipeg.

Li was found not criminally responsible for the 2008 murder of Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus headed for Winnipeg. Li was suffering from schizophrenia and has been held at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre ever since.

His doctors said Monday he is taking his medication, isn’t suffering from hallucinations and appreciates the gravity of what he did.

Bezan however said Tuesday he is "very concerned" about the recommendations.

"It’s an insult to the family of Mr. Li’s victim, Tim McLean," Bezan said.

He said it’s why the government has introduced the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act. In fact a recommendation last spring that Li be allowed to have escorted walks away from the hospital prompted Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to review the existing laws. He introduced the legislation in February.

The Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act creates a new category of high-risk offenders who can’t even be considered for release by a provincial review board until a court agrees to revoke the designation. Individuals in this category would not have a review of their status for three years, could not be given unescorted passes to leave custody, and could only get escorted passes under very narrow circumstances.

The law also makes public safety the main consideration provincial review boards use when considering what to do with offenders deemed not criminally responsible, and ensures victims will be notified when the offender is released. Review boards can order offenders to have no contact with their victims, and victims can even ask to ensure the offender stay away from designated places.

The law can be applied retroactively to offenders who are still receiving treatment.

Earlier this week a coalition of mental health advocacy groups in Canada said the bill was developed without consultation with mental health experts and isn’t necessary.

They argued it further stigmatizes the mentally ill, incorrectly suggests the likelihood of reoffence is connected to the brutality of the act committed, and makes people unnecessarily afraid of those with mental illness.

Those found not criminally responsible account for a very small number of offenders and with proper treatment have a much lower rate of reoffending than prisoners coming out of the federal prison system, at about 7.5 per cent compared to more than 40 per cent.

Bezan however urged the review board considering Li’s case not to follow the recommendations for further privileges.

"Our Conservative government has always put victims first, and always will. I hope the Manitoba Criminal Code Review Board does the same."

The board is expected to make a decision within a week.

Mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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