Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

For Tim's mother, the issue is safety

She wants his mentally ill killer confined for life

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Carol de Delley doesn't want Vince Li executed. She doesn't think the man who killed her son four years ago should be treated inhumanely at all. She's not part of the baying crowd who think Li should be tossed into a regular prison, into a dungeon, onto the next flight back to China.

She wants him treated well within the confines of a secure mental-health facility. She wants that to happen for the rest of his natural life.

Tim McLean's mother knows retribution isn't the answer, not even if such thoughts surfaced during the dark hours, days and months after her sleeping son was attacked and mutilated on a Greyhound bus. The 22-year-old became a symbol of a world gone dark. Vince Li became the bogeyman. The murder brought home a violence and depravity most of us have thankfully only seen on Criminal Minds.

Li was found not criminally responsible for the slaying. He has schizophrenia and was not receiving treatment when he killed Carol de Delley's boy. The verdict didn't sit well with many who don't buy mental illness as a reason for not doing time for crime. Carol de Delley was never part of that crowd.

"I'm not fear-mongering. It's (the calls for violence against Li) that are frightening. I have nothing but empathy and sympathy for people who are suffering from a mental illness," the 51-year-old said Friday afternoon.

But empathy goes only so far. If you're a killer, she doesn't care about your backstory.

"They want to take care of Vince Li and treat him humanely. Fine. No wonder he's showing vast improvements. Compared to what he was like, no kidding. (But) he needs to be kept there. He needs to be in a secure locked facility for the rest of his life."

Li was in the headlines again this 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. He was previously allowed to walk the hospital grounds under strict supervision.

Li would be accompanied by a nurse and a peace officer in Selkirk at all times. Although the walks would last 30 minutes at the start, they could eventually stretch to full days. Many believe this latest expansion of privileges is a step to one day releasing Li back into the community.

"This is a public safety issue," says de Delley. "It's not about revenge."

She says her research shows people who are deemed not criminally responsible are usually out after three to five years in a locked facility. She believes Li would already be out if this wasn't a high-profile case.

She's given a lot of interviews in the last four years. That's what happens when your child is killed in such a horrid public way, when you make the decision you're not going to lie down and die, too. Some people have criticized her for remaining in the spotlight. Those critics haven't loved and lost a child.

De Delley wants to see the way Canada deals with mentally ill killers changed, and there are signs she might get her wish. Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced this week he is reviewing the Criminal Code with an eye to putting public safety ahead of individual rights in cases involving people found not criminally responsible for their actions.

"I'm doing a happy dance about that," de Delley said. "I don't think if you've taken a life, you've got the right to your freedom. I think that sends a message to mentally ill persons you won't be held responsible."

The debate has sent shivers through the mental-health community. Even as Manitoba opened its first mental-health court to divert non-violent offenders from the traditional justice system, the decision to give Li additional freedoms has led to online calls for his death.

Again, Tim McLean's mother is not among that number. But her son's murder has exposed the fear and mistrust many feel toward those with a mental illness, no matter how treatable.

"I think we have all had experiences with mental illnesses. It's common. But our experiences weren't violent," she says. "Schizophrenia is not curable, it's treatable."

Carol de Delley can't bring back her middle child. She can't erase the torment of the past four years. But she's determined something good will come from Tim's death. Changing the not-criminally-responsible law is all she's got left.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 19, 2012 A3

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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