Mother of Tim McLean says Vince Li's absolute discharge is 'a great injustice'
The mother of the man beheaded on a Winnipeg-bound Greyhound Bus in 2008 said "a great injustice" has occurred by granting Will Baker, formerly known as Vince Li, an absolute discharge.
The Manitoba Criminal Review Board released a decision Feb. 10, stating that after considering evidence, Baker does not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public.
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Baker was found not criminally responsible in 2009, after it was determined he was suffering from untreated schizophrenia when he stabbed and beheaded Tim McLean, 22, on a Greyhound bus near Portage La Prairie, Man.
In a written statement posted on social media and sent to CBC News, McLean's mother thanked people for their support, and is urging those who don't agree with the review board's decision to take action.
"I'm grateful that Timothy's death has shed light on the issue," said Carol de Delley. "I'm thankful for all the messages of love and support. I pray everyone now takes it a step further. Contact your local elected official."
Last year, Baker was granted the freedom to live in the community, but conditions included he must be supervised while taking medication for schizophrenia and disclose his address to his medical team. An absolute discharge means all restrictions have been lifted.
McLean's mother has long advocated that Baker should remain in a mental health facility and be required to take medication.
"It's time for all people to take care of each other or what kind of a world are we leaving for our children?" de Delley said in her statement. "I'm one voice, I used it, please use yours."
Decision sparks debate
The decision made by the Manitoba Criminal Review Board following Baker's annual review has sparked public debate.
Federal opposition interim leader Rona Ambrose took to social media with a response last Friday.
"I think I speak for a lot of Canadians when I say this doesn't seem right," said Ambrose in a message posted on her Facebook page. "Justin Trudeau must put the rights of victims before the rights of criminals."
Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman James Bezan also said he was disappointed.
"An absolute discharge is the lowest-level adult sentence that an offender can get," he said in a written statement. "The Criminal Code Review Board never considered the rights of Tim McLean's family. The board should have moved slower and granted [Li] incremental freedom."
In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled a review board must order an absolute discharge if a person doesn't pose a significant threat to public safety.
'We weigh all the material'
John Stefaniuk, chair of the Manitoba Criminal Code Review Board, can't comment on specific cases, but said in cases like this a panel of three will hear evidence from several sources before making a decision.
"We receive evidence from the accused patient's treatment team," said Stefaniuk in an interview with CBC News last Saturday. He said they represent a range of expertise. "[They are] generally psychiatrists. Sometimes they're community forensic mental health workers, social workers, sometimes from family members, sometimes from the individuals themselves and we weigh that evidence.
"We weigh all the material that they have on their files, medical reports, psychiatric reports, psychologist reports and all of that goes into the making of the decision."
Stefaniuk said the board will also hear arguments from the patient's lawyer and from the Crown attorney assigned to the case.
Baker is 'going to stay engaged'
Chris Summerville, CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, has worked with Baker for around eight years and said he continues to live with remorse.
"We're confident he is going to stay engaged," said Summerville. "He has expressed a desire to stay engaged with his doctor, with me and with some other mental health organizations."
Summerville said he understands some will be fearful.
"I try to do my best, the schizophrenia societies across Canada try to do their best, to educate the public that people can effectively and successfully live with schizophrenia and manage it and be responsible citizens, have a moral conscience, and stay with their treatment plan. I see it every day."