Manitoba MP Shelly Glover is blasting the provincial Crown attorney’s office for not objecting to enhanced freedoms for Vince Li, the mentally ill man found not criminally responsible for a random killing on board a Greyhound bus.
Glover released a written statement Friday afternoon, making the unusual request for Justice Minister Andrew Swan to immediately file an appeal of his department’s own position on the controversial matter.
"The decision by the Manitoba government not to object to any of the recommendations made to grant Vince Li additonal freedoms, including unescorted trips into Selkirk is an insult not only to the family of Tim McLean but to all law-abiding Manitobans," Glover wrote.
Li learned this week the provincial review board had agreed to all of the enhanced freedoms which were proposed at his annual review on Monday – and endorsed by Crown attorney Susan Helenchilde. Three key changes were 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. Each of these conditions applies 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," 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.
That isn’t sitting well with Glover, who said Friday the "insensitive" decision is an affront to public safety.
"Canadians expect that their justice system will focus on protecting the rights of victims and safeguarding the public from high-risk individuals," she said in her statement.
Medical experts say Li is actually low-risk to reoffend, given his medical treatment.
'Trying to score political points'
Rachel Morgan, a spokeswoman for Justice Minister Andrew Swan, said Glover is "trying to score political points" with a serious issue of public safety.
"She’s trying to blame the provincial government for laws that the federal government is responsible for, instead of admitting that her government has failed to amend the law as we have requested. The review board is established under federal legislation and adheres to the federal Criminal Code," Morgan said in an email.
"As Ms. Glover knows, the attorney general does not direct Crown attorneys on criminal cases. The attorney general’s job is to advocate for better federal laws, such as amendments to this section of the Criminal Code. That’s why Manitoba Justice Minister Andrew Swan wrote to the federal government and urged them on multiple occasions to change laws so that public safety would be the primary consideration when making decisions on these cases.
"Those changes would have changed the considerations yesterday and ultimately could have changed the decision that was taken. To date, those amendments have not been tabled by the federal government," Morgan wrote.
'An insult to Tim McLean'
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."