The man who beheaded a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus in 2008 could move to independent living in the community once his treatment team completes an assessment report and community living plan and recommends he's ready to do so, according to a decision released today by the Manitoba Criminal Code Review Board.
Li, who has changed his name to Will Baker, was found not criminally responsible for the beheading death of 22-year-old Timothy McLean.
Since last spring, Li has lived in a halfway house in Winnipeg.
He will continue to live there under conditions that include abiding by house rules, taking his medications, attending appointments, keeping contact with mental health professionals and going to counselling.
McLean's mother, Carol de Delley, said she is not surprised by the board's decision. She added she does not have confidence in the review board process.
"I do believe that with an incurable illness the likelihood of him descending back into his illness is high," she said.
"At the end of the day we do not have a legal mechanism in Canada that requires him to take his medication, treat his illness. If he decides not to, we can't make him."
Any future independent living would still include supervised administration of medication and contact with health specialists and his treating psychiatrist, the board heard Monday.
Witness to slaying disagrees
Christopher Alguire has been following the process and disagrees with the board's decision.
"If he's ready to assume his responsibility, then I think the board should consider that. Now he's ready to go to the justice system and be institutionalized [in] prison," he said.
Alguire was a long-distance truck driver who pulled over when he saw the Greyhound bus stopped at the side of the road in July 2008.
"A lady ran up to my truck, saying somebody was being stabbed on the bus," he said.
Alguire took control of the situation, getting bus passengers to safety. When he saw a bus driver going back on the bus, he followed him, concerned about his well-being.
That's when he saw Li decapitating McLean.
"It's shocking. It's not something I figured I'd see," he said, saying the details have stuck in his mind.
Alguire helped barricade the bus door until the RCMP arrived. He's still frustrated they didn't do more to prevent Li from doing more damage to McLean's body.
"There's a few things I'd do different. Probably wouldn't put all my faith in our officers. Not as much as I did, anyhow."
Alguire has watched news coverage of Li's review board hearings every year, and gets angry every time he hears Li is getting more freedom.
He has no faith that Li or the mental health system will be able to control his actions once he's living independently in the community.
"If he understands what he's done now, maybe he didn't at the time, then I believe that he is ready to face our justice system knowing what he did and taking responsibility for it. And for what he did, he should serve at least two consecutive life sentences in prison where he's going to die in there," Alguire said.
"Because what's it going to take? He's going to come out, he's going to slowly blend in with society, then he trips again. Kills one, two, three four more people? And then what? How many more people have to die before justice is actually served?"
Not criminally responsible
However, the not criminally responsible designation is a fundamental principle of Canada's justice system. The accused persons must have the capacity to understand that what they did was wrong — otherwise they can't be found guilty of an offence.
"For generations, we have said that that person is not a fit subject for retribution or punishment," said Archie Kaiser, a law professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax and an expert in mental health law.
"Obviously, that's a difficult thing for both the family and the witnesses to understand in some ways because we can only imagine how terrible their suffering has been and how they're still haunted by these events. But in order to do justice, we both control the risk of reoffending and respect the rights of the accused to be reintegrated into society. So it looks as if, in this case, things have worked well. The accused has recovered or is in the process of recovering, he's being closely controlled and eventually he should be able to be reintegrated into society."
Christopher Alguire doesn't buy that argument. He doesn't believe Li should get a second chance.
In the meantime, he has this wish for McLean's family and friends, and all the people who were on the Greyhound bus that night.
"I hope that they can find closure, however it comes, and find peace. Tim is gone, but he's not forgotten. He's impacted many, many people and will forever be in a lot of our hearts."