Greyhound bus killer Vince Li is now allowed to go on short, escorted outings from the Manitoba mental hospital where he has been committed.
Li, who has schizophrenia, was sent to the Selkirk Mental Health Centre after being found not criminally responsible of beheading Tim McLean, 22, a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus near Portage La Prairie, Man., in July 2008.
The Manitoba Review Board ruled on Thursday that Li can leave the hospital grounds for supervised excursions into the city of Selkirk, Man., starting at 30 minutes in duration.
Those excursions can be increased incrementally to a "maximum of full days," according to the board's written ruling.
He must be escorted at all times by one hospital staff member and one security or peace officer.
"The treatment team is of the opinion that his condition is stable and it would be appropriate and safe for him to leave the locked ward," the ruling states in part.
Li has been kept inside a locked wing of the mental hospital. But after an annual review of his treatment in 2010, Li started being granted short, supervised walks on the hospital grounds.
Psychiatrist requested passes
Last year, the review board decided to gradually increase those walks to several hours in length.
Earlier this week, a psychiatrist who has been treating Li asked the board to grant Li passes to take supervised trips into Selkirk, a city of more than 9,800 located north of Winnipeg, with two escorts.
Dr. Steve Kremer said Li has responded well to his treatment and understands he has schizophrenia.
The Crown did not object to the recommendation at Monday's review board hearing.
Li's doctors also recommended that he should be allowed to be generally supervised on the hospital grounds, rather than be subject to one-on-one supervision.
In Thursday's ruling, the board said Li is to be "escorted at all times with general supervision in a group of no more than three patients to one staff member who is equipped with either a two-way radio or a cellphone."
Security staff at the hospital must be notified when Li is going to leave the locked ward, the ruling states.
Victim's mother 'terrified'
McLean's mother, Carol de Delley, has argued that Li should never be allowed out of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, but said she expected Thursday's ruling.
"I'm not surprised," she told CBC News. "Disappointed? Absolutely. Terrified?" Certainly."
De Delley said it is "ironic and ridiculous" that a mental health system that failed to protect her son from Li is now recommending that Li be reintegrated into society.
"It's typical of the complete disrespect that myself and my family have experienced throughout this entire process," she said.
On July 30, 2008, McLean, a carnival worker, was returning home to Winnipeg from Edmonton on Greyhound bus 1170 when Li sat down beside him.
Then, around 8:30 p.m. CT, when the bus was near Portage La Prairie, Man., Li pulled a buck knife from his side and began stabbing McLean — for no apparent reason, witnesses said.
After passengers fled the bus, by then on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway, Li was barricaded inside the vehicle.
During the stabbing, Li was heard to say, "Get emergency." During the five-hour standoff, he walked around the bus carrying the severed head in one hand, the knife in the other.
Around 1:30 a.m., Li attempted to jump from a bus window and was grabbed by police. When he was subdued, Li repeatedly said he was sorry but could not say what he was sorry for, officers said.
Psychiatrists testified at his trial that Li was schizophrenic and suffering a major psychotic episode at the time of the killing.
Li heard voices from God telling him that McLean was an evil threat that needed to be eliminated, the psychiatrists said.
Less than 1% chance of reoffending
Recently, Li's doctors have said he is on medication and not experiencing any symptoms or hallucinations.
Li is considered to have a 0.8 per cent chance of reoffending violently in the next seven years, according to doctors.
'I think we can give greater direction in the law to ensure protection of the public.' —Rob Nicholson, federal justice minister
But de Delley has been calling for changes to Canada's justice system that would hold mentally ill killers indefinitely in hospital regardless of what progress they may show.
"They are acting within the parameters of the laws that are currently in place. That's how we got the NCR [not criminally responsible] ruling in the first place," she said.
Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said he is reviewing the Criminal Code to look at how to balance public safety with the rights of those found not criminally responsible for their actions.
"Ultimately, of course, every case is decided on a case-by-case basis," Nicholson told reporters in Ottawa.
"That being said, though, I think we can give greater direction in the law to ensure protection of the public."
In a statement, Manitoba Justice Minister Andrew Swan said he is pleased that Nicholson is following through on the review, which the province had asked for two years ago.
Swan said the province will work with the federal government to make any changes as quickly as possible.
Neither justice minister would comment specifically on Li's case.