Thursday April 17, 2014




Are people with mental illnesses who have committed crimes treated too leniently in Canada?

He said, She said
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He said

This topic has come under some discussion recently after doctors treating Vince Li, the man who decapitated a fellow bus traveller four years ago, recommended him to be permitted supervised community visits.

These community visits would be intended as a way to re-integrate Li into society for his eventual release at some later time. Reading through the comment sections, it’s clear a lot of people are against this individual’s release, suggesting things like lynch mobs and locking up his psychiatrists would be more appropriate action.

I’m not a doctor, and I have little to no understanding of Li’s condition, schizophrenia, which is said to have gone untreated before he murdered the man on the bus.

His doctors say his condition can be controlled with medication and that Li understands the importance of staying on the treatments. I will defer to their judgment on this one. They certainly don’t have an agenda that involves placing a dangerous person into any community.

Li wasn’t convicted of murder because of his mental illness, and the whole reason he was placed in the Selkirk Mental Health Centre was so he could be treated and get better, so eventually he could be released back into society as a productive member of the community. It’s the same as with the jail system. We sentence people to jail terms for the purpose of rehabilitation so they can be released.

Certainly if Li is released he won’t share the same freedoms of most of us. I would still favour conditions placed on him with regular meetings with his doctors, perhaps even supervision by a family member or friend.

I don’t understand mental illnesses, and I doubt many other average citizens do either. I don’t think the incident on the bus was something Li wanted to do, and if he understands that something similar could happen if he goes off his medication, then from hearing what his doctors say about him being aware of the consequences, he wouldn’t.

She said

This is a pretty fuzzy area, because mental illness itself can be a very fuzzy subject. When treated and properly looked after, those with mental illnesses live fruitful, successful lives like anyone without a mental illness. But the unfortunate few who are not treated, who lose their ability to function normally in society, who behead men on Greyhound buses, do these people belong on our streets?

I’m going to say probably not, at least in the case of the Greyhound bus killer. Vince Li, who violently murdered Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus because he thought McLean was a demon, was not criminally charged for his actions because he is mentally ill. He’s looking at being released in as few as five years.

I can honestly say that I don’t ever want to ride on a bus with Li, whether or not the Canadian justice system blames him for beheading an innocent man.

For one, he could have fooled doctors and psychiatrists into believing that he actually was mentally ill. We’ve all heard of insanity being the best defence. Obviously Hollywood has stretched this ridiculously, but it seems like something that could be based on truth. No one can read another person’s mind. It just doesn’t seem likely that every single person who commits a gross crime and pleads insanity is actually telling the truth.

Secondly, once he’s free of doctor surveillance, what’s to stop Li from discontinuing his medication? I read online that his family wants nothing to do with him once he’s free, so who’s going to be around to make sure he stays sane? Will he even be monitored by the government who has kept him isolated since the incident?

So while this may not apply to all cases involving the mentally ill, the justice system is being too lenient in dealing with Vince Li.


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