Bus travel in Canada is a safer now, with fewer disturbances, and gone are the free-wheeling days of drunken riders and drug-crazed passengers harassing everybody between towns and bus depots, for interminable periods in this vast country. The happy alteration in travel conditions came as the result of a terribly tragic event in 2008, due to the 'killing' of Tim McLean on a Greyhound Bus travelling from Edmonton to Winnipeg. It happened on July 30. 2008 (the night of) because Vince Li, who has since changed his name to Will Baker, went nuts. That's what the courts and their agents have decided.

Will Baker (Vince Li) killed Tim McLean on a Greyhound as it rolled toward Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, from the west. It was a bus laden with passengers who saw a gruesome event, dozens witnessed this senseless act, and today the security system on a bus ride through Western Canada is intense.

Because of this insane event by one single insane lunatic, everybody who rides a bus is watched like a hawk, security personnel are constantly making eye contact with passengers before the boarding occurs, and every security person working in the area is supposedly qualified to discern mental illness and other character defects, this being the impression given in this new heightened state of security.

Every carry-on bag is searched at every large depot along the route, and everybody is closely observed in boarding, usually by a minimum two security guards who conduct a 'wand sweep' for metal objects. Since the insane massacre of a sleeping Tim McLean was done with a large-blade knife carried close to his person, and despite the fact Will Baker (Vince Li) was not convicted of first degree murder, he did, in fact, have some kind of premeditation stirring in his addled brain.

Passengers are informed that unchecked carry-on bags are searched to satisfy a zero tolerance policy on alcohol and drugs. Automatic 24-hour bans are imposed by Greyhound Canada for any contraventions, and police are called immediately to intervene if there is the slightest provocation, while everybody is amply warned in advance. Entire properties at every major depot under Greyhound Canada management are supervised and continuously patrolled by security squads.

When Will Baker (Vincent Li) fell into a murderous insanity may be unknown but he had begun this summer sojourn of the macabre in Edmonton, Alberta, after becoming estranged from his wife, and on the eastbound journey took a short break in Erickson, Manitoba, where he disembarked and spent two nights sulking on a beach. It is probable he was familiar with the area after living in Winnipeg in previous years, but why he was returning to Winnipeg was never clarified, however, he decided to continue on to Winnipeg and was able to board the Greyhound bus at Erickson. 

When Will Baker (Vincent Li) resumed this trip by boarding another Greyhound bus , he sat forward on the bus. Shortly thereafter he moved to the rear. He was sitting near the back of the bus beside a sleeping Tim McLean until Will Baker's psychotic Vincent Li self began methodically attacking without warning or incitement, for Tim McLean died in his sleep.

At any rate, many years hence, drivers refuse to speak to passengers in the vast majority of trips. For the longest time, there was very little talking amongst passengers either, in fact, a strange silence descended over the proceedings in traveling on a bus. In the urban centres, the heightened level of security adds a dark ambience, a theretofore unheardof amount of tension surrounds the process of bus travel, much like air travel post 9/11.

Bus travel in the Canadian west has become an eerie experience with a haunting quality due to the nightmarish spectre of a stark raving mad rain of stabbing blows turning surreal with decapitation, trophy-taking (ears and nose found in perpetrator's pockets), and cannibalism. The eeriness was exacerbated by what Will Baker (Vincent Li) said, "I am staying on the bus forever," when they were coaxing him out of the bus and leading his blood-splattered self away from horrified onlookers, mainly bus passengers.

Ultimately he was incarcerated in a forensic ward of a mental institution in Manitoba under the Mental Health Act. As early as mid-2010 the institution applied to the courts to allow him a 15-minute walk each day under escort around a secure outdoor compound.  By 2016 Will Baker (Vincent Li), was discharged with some conditions, such as he must be supervised while taking medication for schizophrenia, and must disclose his home address to medical personnel, and have no contact with McLean's family.

Like others found not criminally responsible, he had to undergo annual hearings to determine whether he is a threat to the public. Now the court has been petitioned to set him free. He is no longer be required to attend annual reviews. "To put it in lay terminology, the person is free to go," said Chris Summerville, CEO of the Canadian Schizophrenia Society, who has worked with the patient since his arrest.

The family of victim Tim McLean attends any and all hearings pertaining to Will Baker (Vincent Li) and during the most recent proceeding, Carol de Delley, McLean's mother, vehemently protested the inmate's application for complete release. She says there is no way to ensure he takes the anti-psychotic medication.  "What if he chooses to stop his medication again? In a nutshell, I don't believe that should be his choice to make anymore," she said at the courthouse. "A secure facility where he can continue to receive treatment for the rest of his natural life is where he belongs. Has everyone forgotten what he did to Timothy?"

Will Baker (Vincent Li) stayed on the bus for awhile, certainly well past the date on his ticket. Many people might think Will Baker (Vincent Li) is still on every bus from Vancouver to Sudbury, Ontario, and that Will Baker (Vincent Li) rides them all over Western Canada with passengers on Greyhound Canada, but mainly his routes are from Edmonton to Winnipeg. He pretty much stops riding the buses at North Bay, Ontario.

Still that is a long distance and a lot of haunting and the irony is that while Will Baker (Vincent Li) does all this haunting, this is an odd thing, because he's alive and (according to mental health professionals in charge of his future) well, Tim McLean is the guy who did the dying, killed mercilously and defenselessly by Will Baker (Vincent Li).

In many ways bus travel is safer, more predictable, than it used to be. In other words, the ride has become even more stultifying than it ever was, and customers are dealing with endless numbers of marginally courteous authorities who are panicked about every face they see. The driver from the atrocious scene returned to duty. It has been almost a decade but the system remains severely traumatized about the event, and the travel situation is permanently altered to a higher degree of personal security for everybody engaged in the pursuit.

Freelance Writing by Mack McColl in 2013



How Greyhound Canada Became Permanently Altered to Higher Security