The mother of a Manitoba man who was beheaded aboard a Greyhound bus in 2008 says she welcomes proposed changes to the Criminal Code that would put tougher restrictions on people found not criminally responsible due to mental illness.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Friday that Bill C-54, the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act, would create a new legal designation to protect the public from an accused person designated as "high-risk non-criminally responsible."
The changes would also ensure that victims would be notified when a "high-risk non-criminally responsible" accused person is discharged, Harper said.
"I'm very pleased that this has come about as quickly as it has," said Carol de Delley, whose 22-year-old son, Tim McLean, was beheaded by another man aboard a Greyhound bus in southern Manitoba in July 2008.
"I've honestly felt, like everybody else, with government it's going to take forever and a day for anything to change."
McLean's killer, Vince Li, was found not criminally responsible because of his schizophrenia.
The Schizophrenia Society of Canada argues that the federal government is getting tough on mental illness as well as crime.
Chris Summerville, the society's chief executive officer, said Canadians should know that mentally ill offenders can respond to treatment and recover.
"The public did not hear today that when [not criminally responsible] offenders are released, that 93 to 97 per cent never reoffend again," he said.
Summerville added that only three per cent of those with mental illness come into conflict with the law.
The schizophrenia society was not consulted on the proposed legislation, he said.
Li told Summerville in an interview last year that he struggled with voices — which he later understood was schizophrenia — that told him he was chosen by God to save people from an alien attack.
In the interview, Li said he feels sorry for what he did and he doubts he will ever know happiness again.
Li has been committed to the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, but last year a review board allowed him to go on short, escorted outings, sparking public outrage.
De Delley said the new federal legislation, if passed, would make it more difficult for offenders to be granted those types of excursions.
Under the "high-risk non-criminally responsible" designation being proposed, an accused person would not be eligible for unescorted passes and would also have to wait three years before getting a review by a mental health board.
"Passes will be for medical reasons only. That narrows the circumstances under which they can receive passes," de Delley said.
"They won't be headed in for [Winnipeg] Jets games and festivals and things."
Under the legislation, the review boards would have to follow stricter guidelines, and only the courts would have the power to revoke the high-risk non-criminally responsible designation.