A man who was found not criminally responsible for beheading a passenger on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba will be allowed to live on his own in the future, despite protestations from his victim's family.
Vince Li, who's gradually been given more freedom since he killed a 22-year-old man in 2008, has been approved by the Manitoba Criminal Code Review Board to move out of the group where he currently resides.
He'll stay in the group home until the board receives recommendations for the conditions he'd have to abide by to live in the community.
Li, who has changed his name to Will Baker in an effort to re-integrate into society, beheaded and mutilated Tim McLean, who was sleeping in a seat beside him on a Greyhound bus near Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, as police and passengers watched with horror from outside.
The following year, he was found not criminally responsible for the murder due to mental illness. The court heard that Li, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, believed God told him to kill McLean or "die immediately."
Justice John Scurfield said in his ruling that the "grotesque acts" were "appalling."
"However, the acts themselves and the context in which they were committed are strongly suggestive of a mental disorder," he said.
"He did not appreciate the act he committed was morally wrong. He believed he was acting in self defence and that he had been commanded by God to do so."
Li was sent to the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, but has been given more and more privileges since annual Criminal Code Review Board hearings began in 2010.
He went from being only allowed to take short supervised walks on hospital grounds to being transferred into a group home and being allowed to take unescorted visits to Winnipeg in 2015.
Now, Baker's medical team says he'd been a "model patient" who knows he has to take antipsychotic medication, according to the Canadian Press. Even if he's living independently, Baker will be monitored daily, required to check in regularly with mental health professionals, and be subjected to random drug tests.
But Carol de Delley, McLean's mother, believes the decision is a mistake.
"I do believe that with an incurable illness the likelihood of him descending back into his illness is high," she told the CBC on Thursday.
"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."
Critics, like Conservative MP for Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman James Bezan, say the possibility of Baker living alone is an "insult to his victim's family."
"I am very concerned about Tim McLean's family who has yet to see justice served, and I express my condolences to the family for this callous request," he wrote in a statement on his website. "In my opinion, this request poses a great risk to public safety."
Bezan noted that while Manitoba's justice system can designate Baker a "high risk - not criminally responsible" person, they've chosen not to do so.
"They have blatantly ignored the rights of the victim's family, and compromised the public safety of our community in its decision," he continued. "The Board does not take into consideration the family of Tim McLean, nor do they care about the public safety concerns raised by families living in Winnipeg and Selkirk."
But others have criticized Bezan for being "misinformed."
Chris Summerville, CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, in an emailed statement to VICE News, said the "fear-mongering" politician is in denial of any [not criminally responsible] person's therapeutic progress and of the "science of the futility of a 'high risk' designation."
Follow Tamara Khandaker on Twitter: @anima_tk