Is the Greyhound Murderer a Case for Capital Punishment or a symptom of inadequate Mental Health Care in our Nation?

While a majority of our nation is still entrenched in the unthinkable nature of the Greyhound Bus murder, I’m  thinking of justice.

Accused killer, Vince Weiguang Li, has been charged with second degree murder in the death of Tim McLean, and is being held in custody pending a court-ordered psychiatric assessment. Already there are cries that the charges are inadequate considering the nature of the crime, but the reality is that in Canada, our system doesn’t allow for capital punishment. This crime is making people think about where they stand on justice in our country for men like the accused and there appears to be two sides in the public eye.

 The obvious thought is that the killer must be nuts to have done something like this, so calmly and with great effort. Some news reports say that he was having difficulties, that he needed help but didn’t get it.Some are saying he had marital difficulties, but his employer said he did not seem to be on edge.We don;t really know if he was mentally ill or not, and yet some are saying this is a sign of the times, our underfunded mental health care resources are failing to help so many people that incidents like this are inevitable. I must admit, there have been several stories locally in recent times that would seem to indicate this is the case, and its been an ongoing problem in Vancouvers DTES. But this fellow wasn’t a homeless addict on the street that fell through the cracks, we know that much. He was employed, married, had friends. So what happened, and does it even really matter in the end? 

The other side of public comment seems to be leaning towards the eye for an eye sentiment. Bring back capital punishment,  the good old “fry the bastard” mentality. The argument here is that our prison system has been demostrated to be inadequate in many instances, and even hardened brutal murderers have access to many comforts and entertainments that makes prisons seem like vacation resorts. Even if this man were to be found competent to stand trial, what happens when he completes his sentence? What if he “finds God” during his time in the pen, and starts up with the remorseful act that so many criminals seem to adopt come parole time? Should this man ever be allowed to walk the street again?

As a writer, a mother and a woman, I feel like I can look at the situation from many sides. There are no easy answers. We tell our children its wrong to hit, and wrong to murder. We tell them that just because someone is mean to them, that is no reason to be mean back. And then this happens.

If we  lived in a country where criminals were actually treated like criminals, I might feel differently, but I don’t think there is any punishment in our system severe enough for this man. If going to jail for this sort of crime meant sitting in a small cell, with no tv, no access to internet, or gym equipment, not even the smallest amount of pleasure, then perhaps I would feel differently. Even if he is mentally ill, and needed help, so what? Does this exonerate him from his actions? At what point do we say  that no excuse is tolerable for such a heinous act. 

Tim Mclean cannot get his life back. He will never fall in love,get married, have kids, grow old. Say what you will about forgiveness and empathy, and maybe I should be a better, bigger person –  but right now, I’m leaning towards the eye for an eye.