Saturday, June 5, 2010
Justice Minister Swan stalls supervised ground passes for Li until security is upgraded -- completely inhumane!
Vince Li might not walk outside Selkirk Mental Health Centre any time soon, despite a justice review board’s order the Manitoba bus-beheading killer be allowed escorted strolls on the facility’s grounds.
Justice Minister Andrew Swan stepped in Thursday to prevent any immediate movement by Li — found not criminally responsible last year in the July 2008 stabbing death and dismemberment of Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus near Portage la Prairie — outside the complex in Selkirk, despite the Criminal Code Review Board of Manitoba’s order this week.
Swan told reporters Li will not be released onto the unfenced grounds, even with hospital staff accompanying him, until the health centre upgrades its security.
“The centre will not be allowing Mr. Li to leave the locked forensic unit until there are appropriate measures in place to make the public certain that there is no risk,” Swan said.
The Crown might appeal the review board’s order after reasons for it are released, he added, “and obviously, the government of Manitoba will support that decision.”
He did not specify what security is needed, though he suggested an installation of fencing could be part of any changes. Security improvements are up to the complex’s management, he said.
Swan has spoken to federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson about the concerns for public safety regarding the review board’s decision, saying the “demonstrably unfit” order “seriously undermines public confidence in the Canadian system of justice.”
The order released Thursday by the Criminal Code Review Board approves a recommendation by Li’s treating psychiatrist he be allowed daily supervised passes on the hospital grounds. The passes are to last 15 minutes initially, and increase over time to a maximum of one hour, twice daily.
Li, meanwhile, will continue to reside at the hospital’s locked forensic ward.
When outside the secured ward, Li is to be escorted at all times by at least two staff members equipped with either a two-way radio or a cellphone, the review board said.
Carol deDelley, McLean’s mother, said she wasn’t surprised by the ruling.
“It seems anything that is asked for in regard to Li’s well-being is granted. I do believe it’s the first steps to freedom for Vince Li,” she said.
She said she hasn’t changed her view that her son’s killer should never be released.
“I don’t think he should ever be free,” deDelley said. “I don’t think society owes a vicious killer his freedom.”
The controversy surrounding Li comes after the same mental health complex was said last October to lack the security necessary to house another mentally ill killer.
Joey Wiebe entered the facility in 2002 after being found not criminally responsible for murdering his stepmother, Candis Moizer, in 2000.
In September 2006, an unshackled Wiebe escaped custody by outrunning two psychiatric nursing aides on his way to a medical appointment at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre. His flight sparked a nationwide manhunt, ending in British Columbia nearly two weeks later.
The head of the Manitoba Schizophrenic Society says boosting security at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre based on the case of one high-profile patient would be a huge step backwards for the treatment of mental illness.
Chris Summerville, the society’s executive director, said Thursday he fears the sensationalism and public outcry over the Vince Li case is pushing provincial leaders to make decisions based on politics rather than on implications for those in the facilities.
Li, who is schizophrenic, has been living in the Selkirk facility’s locked forensic ward since March 2009 after being found not criminally responsible for the brutal killing of Tim McLean, whom he stabbed and cannibalized aboard a Greyhound bus west of Portage la Prairie in July 2008.
Summerville said the horrific nature of one case should not shift society’s overall view on treatment of mental illness.
“You don’t change your ethical principles and your guidelines around rehabilitation because the public has a much harder time with one event,” said Summerville, who also sits on the board of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
“I know the public is divided on this and I understand that. But if we need to engage in more mental health education around the fact that these illnesses are treatable and people in fact do get better.”
He said penning-in the facility would be a huge step backwards.
“If it’s about building fences around the centre, then you’re taking us back to the institutionalization of asylums,” Summerville said. “All the literature and evidence of what we know about mental illness treatment and recovery would speak against that.
“I think we’re responding to Li as a criminal as opposed to a mental health patient. The Selkirk Mental Health Centre is not a prison. We have prisons for people who are criminally responsible.”
Summerville said he sees political motives behind the call for heightened security.
“It’s archaic and it’s medieval,” Summerville said of fencing in the facility. “If the NDP or the Conservatives want to act like it’s the year 1210 as opposed to 2010, then shame on them.”
Manitoba’s Opposition Tories suggested Tuesday the government should influence the Criminal Code Review Board in order to ensure Vince Li is denied escorted walkabouts outside the Selkirk Mental Health Centre.
The board presided over a hearing Monday during which Li’s psychiatrist recommended his patient be allowed twice-daily “ground passes” that would see him accompanied by two guards to an unenclosed, outdoor part of the facility’s grounds.
Li has been at the facility since March 2009, when he was found not criminally responsible for killing and beheading fellow passenger Tim McLean aboard a Greyhound bus in 2008.
The Criminal Code Review Board must review Li’s status annually, and its decision on Monday’s hearing is due shortly.
Justice Minister Andrew Swan said Tuesday the Crown opposes the doctor’s suggestion that Li be allowed to roam the grounds, even while supervised.
But Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen suggested Swan should go further and establish a policy that would provide a guideline to the board to deny any freedoms that aren’t “no risk” when it comes to NCR patients like Li who commit the most serious violent crimes. If the board’s decision went against such a policy, the members could be replaced, he suggested.
“They can revoke appointments if they’re unhappy with the decision,” McFadyen said. “The accountability ultimately rests in (the legislature) with elected officials.”
Swan called the suggestion “scary.”
“I’m not going to step in and tell an independent board what to do,” Swan said, noting he doesn’t have the power to do that anyway, as the board is governed by the federal Criminal Code.
Swan said the Crown could appeal the board’s decision if it is unhappy with the outcome.
Swan said he will not consider fencing in the facility’s grounds to enhance security for walkabouts that may be granted to Li or other patients. “It’s not a jail. It’s a mental health facility,” he said.
There is no reason to deny Li the right to have supervised passes outside. That is inhumane and uncivilized. Li is not a criminal and should not be treated worse than a prisoner! He is mentally ill and going outside would be beneficial to his treatment and mental condition. His is on medication and is in a much better mental state than he was two years ago, therefore, going outside would not pose a risk to anybody. He is much less dangerous than he was two years ago. Swan has no right to overrule the Criminal Code, and the doctors who are educated and knowledgeable about mental illnesses and considered the risk to the public. Clearly, the risk is minimal, because they decided to allow Li to have walks. If they felt he posed a risk to public safety, they would not have allowed it! We need to trust their decision!