Premier David Eby Tuesday (Sept. 12) promised his government will launch an independent review to get to the bottom of why a suspect in a triple stabbing in Vancouver’s Chinatown this weekend was out on day parole.
“We will ensure that an independent person looks into the specifics of this case, the decision-making process, how we arrived at this awful place for Chinatown, for the community for the people, who were attacked and make sure that there is nobody else, who is on a day-pass in a similar situation to make sure that the community is safe.”
Eby made these comments in Surrey, where he helped announce a second hospital for Surrey.
It it not clear yet who will head this review.
“I don’t have a name for you today,” he said. “But I can assure you that the goal here is to get the full information for the public and for the families, who deserve it as quickly as we can.”
64-year-old Blair Evan Donnelly remains in police custody after being charged with three counts on aggravated assault related to the stabbings that happened Sunday at around 6 p.m. near the main stage of the annual Light Up Chinatown! festival. The stabbings left a couple in their 60s and a woman in her 20s with severe but non-life-threatening injuries.
The suspect had been on release for the day from a Greater Vancouver forensic psychiatric hospital, where authorities had detained following his trial in the death of his 16-year-old daughter. A court had found Donnelly not guilty due to a mental disorder and sent him to the facility in January 2008. Donnelly qualified for unsupervised community visits in February 2009. A court later found him criminally responsible after he had stabbed a friend in October 2009.
“I am white hot angry,” Eby said. “This person was released unaccompanied into the community to have a devastating impact on all the hard work of all of these community members. I cannot fathom how someone who murdered his daughter was released in 2009, then stabbed somebody else, would then be released again unaccompanied, somehow able to go buy a knife, go to Chinatown and stab three people.
“How is that possible?”
Elenore Sturko, BC United’s shadow minister for mental health, addiction, recovery and education, welcomed Eby’s announcement after having called for an investigation on social media Monday. “I’m glad the Premier has listened to our calls to ask for a review of the circumstances,” she said. “It’s the appropriate thing to do and I hope the Premier ensures transparency in this review, so that the public can understand what happened.”
She added that a transparent review will help retain public’s trust in institutions.
Once the review has established all of the details, the appropriate changes can take happen to ensure something like that cannot happen, she said. Until then, it is premature to talk about which steps are needed, Sturko added.
But the incident has already left an impact. “Three people were stabbed and aside from those, who were the physical victims of this assault, I am sure a number of people in the community were traumatized by what they saw,” Sturko said. “So there is a widespread impact from the decision to release this person (on a day pass).”
Blaine Bray, provincial executive director for forensic psychiatric services with the Provincial Health Service Authority, said his office is unable to comment on the on-going police investigations.
“(However), we would like to express our thoughts to those injured in the incident in Vancouver’s Chinatown neighbourhood on Sept. 10,” he said.
Bray said specific questions about the incident should go toward the Vancouver Police Department, adding that his office is unable to unable to comment on any specific patient’s personal circumstances.
“About day passes, on a general basis for any eligible individual, prior to granting leave or time in the community, the treatment team considers a variety of factors — including the patient’s progress, and mental status — and a review process is followed, which requires the approval of the BC Review Board and Program and Privileges committee,” he said.
According to a BC Review Board order issued on April 13, 2023 and effective since April 24, 2023, Blair “may have escorted and unescorted access to the community depending on his mental condition, having regard to the risk the accused then poses to himself or others” as part of his detention at the forensic psychiatric hospital subject to the distriction of the director for adult forensic psychiatric services.
The order also allows overnight stays in the community for no more than 28 days for the “purpose of assisting in his reintegration into society” subject to approval. The order also includes eight other conditions, including the conditions that “he not acquire, possess, or use any firearm, explosive, or offensive weapon” and that he “keep the peace and be of good behaviour.”
The order is reviewable by Dec. 24.
The board shared the order following an inquiry from Black Press Media, but did not directly comment on the incident itself.
“Our decisions speak for themselves,” it reads.