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Greyhound Bus Decapitation

I’m sure you’ve heard by now of the horrific beheading of a sleeping passenger on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba. The stranger sitting next to him just suddenly started repeatedly stabbing him and then hacked off his head and carried it around.

I can’t even imagine how traumatized those poor travelers must be. I felt vicariously traumatized just listening to the radio interview with one of the passengers. There’s something about decapitation that just seems infinitely worse than plain old stabbing. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way, because this story is making headlines all over the world.

Like most people, my first reaction was shock and horror. And then I felt so sad for everybody, because a lot of lives are going to be forever changed by this tragedy, and not for the better. I felt sad for the victim, his family, the witnesses, and the perpetrator and his family, because clearly he was psychotic and he and his family had probably been struggling with his mental illness for years.

So then I’m checking out news stories about it, and I read this:

“Federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said the full weight of the law must be brought to bear on the perpetrator.
‘We want to make sure the process is followed as aggressively as possible, the full legal process . . . . ‘ Day said from Levis, Que., where Conservative MPs are gathered for a summer planning session.”

How could punishment be the first thought that springs to mind when you hear about something like this? The full weight of the law? Aggressive prosecution? Deterrence? Does Stockwell Day believe the courts need to send a strong message to the rest of us that we won’t get away with hacking each other’s heads off?

This is a mental health problem, not a criminal justice problem. It’s not a Public Safety problem, because how can you possibly prevent isolated incidents from ever happening again? It has nothing to do with Stockwell Day, Public Safety, the Conservative Party or the Government of Canada. The only interest they should be taking in it is from a mental health perspective – did this man have unmet mental health needs that could have been identified and met before yesterday? Are there other Canadians in critical need of mental health resources, and what can we do for them?


12 comments to Greyhound Bus Decapitation

  • Ri

    You are so right Zoom. What about the poor guy who was sitting right in front of them..There were young kids on the bus for God sake. Why is it always about politic’s & not the matter at hand.
    Like you said those people’s lives are changed forever.
    I also think about the poor bus driver.
    It is too sad!

  • Tanya

    This man clearly has mental issues……they still have no motive as to why he did what he did…..I truly beleive he was on medication but never took it that day….how can you decapitate somebody for no odd reason??….The bus driver did some quick thinking with locking the bus so he cant get away…..sometimes when you in that state of mind, you cant think of anything but running away…..God bless the poor man that lost his life……

  • I’m glad somebody else feels this way… what ticked me off was the media (and I work for the media) immediately running off on the tangent of “bus security” and how Greyhound can ensure the safety of it’s passengers. How is this Greyhound’s responsibilty? Sure, you can put screening measures in place, but airports have screening measures and bombs still get on planes. There was also mention of a nationaly “knife registry” in one story. The gun registry hasn’t stopped gun crime, hasn’t even put a dent in it… a knife registry is just ridiculous (fortunately the idea was immediately shot down by the government rep in the story)
    It was a horrific incident to be sure, but let’s not run around trying to find someone to point fingers at. Obviously the assailant was mentally disturbed, because no sane person does that… I agree Zoom… let’s get the assailant the help he obviously needs, and make sure there is support out there for others like him, so nothing like this happens again.

  • Thank you for this. I agree 100% that this is a mental health issue rather than a criminal justice one. I even heard some rumour about a knife registry! How ludicrous is that?

    I think, in terms of politics, the Conservatives would like us to be fearful and thus tractable as a votership – that way they can bring in all kinds of legislation that will make them look like heroes, ensure votes, but ultimately make us a more constricted society.

  • “…the full weight of the law must be brought to bear on the perpetrator.”

    The “full weight of the law” includes provisions for mental health treatment in case of a guilty verdict. Psychosis and psychotic behaviour are mental health issues right up until someone gets hurt or worse, then it becomes a legal issue. The criminal justice system is capable of dealing with people who broke a law because of a mental defect.

    I think, in relation to your reaction to the Minister’s comment, you’re misinterpreting political-speak. “Full weight of the law” means just that, it’s just maybe the words are different than you might want to hear or maybe there’s a personal bias in hearing the words from this Minister which makes them seem more sinister than they actually are.

    Just to clarify the knife registry thing, when Stockwell was asked about it he answered:

    “I wouldn’t even want to open up a discussion about possibly registering the millions of knives dealing with kitchen purposes alone, let alone hunting purposes.”

  • Gabriel, Mr. Day also said he wants the perpetrator convicted in court. To me, that indicates he doesn’t want the courts to find him not guilty by reason of insanity. I know the “not guilty by reason of insanity” thing is controversial, but not among people who understand it.

    I do agree with him on the knife registry question. Whoever came up with THAT idea needs to give their head a shake.

  • Thanks for this great post, zoom. We were stunned when we saw the news last night (and did some calling around after, as most of my extended family’s in Edmonton). I just hope everyone can get the help they need to deal with the aftermath.

  • You’re so right. Every time shit like this happens (I mean not a beheading on a bus – that’s a gruesome first for me, but a psychotic person hurting and killing), I think about how hard it is to get people with mental illness help if they don’t agree there’s a problem. Of course you need to consider human rights but psychosis is a disconnect with reality. And proving that they are endangering themselves or anyone is very difficult – even if they say things like “I’d like to see my enemies burn in a basement.” (I say from personal experience…)

    Gosh, though, what a horrible, horrible experience for everyone involved.

  • Malva

    Glad that we’re not the only ones thinking that way. My first thought to the news reports about how can they ensure safety on buses and if they should start screening passengers was: “But it’s a freak incident!” It’s not like the chances of something like that happening again in the near future are high.

    It’s very much a mental health issue, not something for the Federal Public Safety Minister to worry about.

  • Em

    Agree entirely.
    I just heard a soundbite on the radio from someone close to the victim, saying something to the extent that they wish the death penalty still existed in Canada because people shouldn’t be able to do this and not die themselves. I can only imagine how horrible this is for his family and friends, but still. I don’t know any more about the situation than anyone else, but I’m pretty certain this is not an occasion for the death penalty, or even the discussion of it.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if Stockwell & Company exploit the hell out of this tragedy.

  • riksaga

    My wife thinks it sounds like the guy was on drugs. The super sized combo of LSD, Cocaine, H, Meth and booze needed for this reaction is, to me, unfathomable. If it was drugs, and the guy was not seriously mental ill to start, then he should be locked up forever for choosing to put himself into such a crazy state.

  • Ellen

    OK, somehow here in the US, I missed this story. But we just had our own decapitation when 2 guys were standing on the upper level of a double decker bus when it went under a bridge. No mention yet of the blood alcohol level.