Vince Li, who stabbed and beheaded a passenger aboard a Greyhound bus, has won the right to have escorted walks.
The Criminal Code Review Board of Manitoba has approved a plan to let Li walk around the grounds of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, just north of Winnipeg, as long as he is escorted by two staff members.
The passes will start at 15 minutes and increase incrementally to a maximum of one hour, twice daily, according to the review board's written decision.
Li, 41, has been in a secure portion of the centre since he was found not criminally responsible for the brutal killing of Tim McLean, 22.
McLean was returning home to Winnipeg from Edmonton. As the bus neared Portage La Prairie, Man., Li pulled a buck knife from his side and began stabbing McLean for no apparent reason. He also ate some of the body parts and cut off McLean's head.
Other passengers fled the bus and stood on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway, while Li was barricaded inside the vehicle for five hours.
He was arrested by RCMP when he attempted to jump from a bus window.
Psychiatric evidence at his trial suggested he is a schizophrenic who suffered a major psychotic episode.
He was in a Winnipeg courtroom Monday for a mandatory annual review of his detention
At the hearing, Li's doctors asked the board to consider allowing Li 15-minute escorted walks on the grounds of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre.
The Crown and McLean's family opposed the move and Thursday's decision was a blow, said McLean's mom, Carol deDelley.
"When you do what he did, you should be locked up for the rest of your natural life, period," she said from her home in Elie, Man.
"My son's human rights were violated in the most horrific manner, and that's completely disregarded and forgotten, and they're all concerned about Mr. Li's human rights.
"I would like to be doing a job and enjoying my life again, but we haven't had one iota of closure. Each year, Mr. Li is going to begin to receive more and more freedoms, more and more of a life back. And I don't think that he should."
Crown may appeal
Manitoba's Attorney General Andrew Swan said Li's escorts will not happen until the hospital improves security. Currently, there is not even a fence around the grounds.
Swan did not say whether security upgrades might include constructing a fence, hiring extra staff or other measures.
"Our government will make sure that there are appropriate steps taken to protect public safety before Mr. Li is anywhere other than inside that [locked] forensic unit," Swan said.
Swan also said the Crown attorney who argued against Li's walks this week may appeal the review board's decision, which Swan said "seriously undermines public confidence in the Canadian system of justice."
A schizophrenia support group said allowing Li sunshine and fresh air is both humane and an important part of his treatment.
"The people who take exception to it, unfortunately, have bought into the myth … about mental illness, that pervades our society. They think the person can't get better," Chris Summerville, the group's executive director, said.
"The science is very clear. [Li] can learn to manage his illness."