Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the federal government “has some explaining to do” about how a man found not criminally responsible in a 2014 stabbing death in Toronto was allowed to leave the country earlier this month.
In a statement Thursday, Ford called the case of Zhebin Cong “disturbing and outrageous.
“The fact is, a person who murdered someone using a meat cleaver was deemed low risk to the public and was out on the street for two weeks without the public knowing. Furthermore, he was allowed to get on a plane with law-abiding citizens and fly out of Canada and escape.”
Cong, 47, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of San Tai Yuan at a rooming house. Two years later, he was found not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder.
On July 3, he got on an international flight, according to Toronto police, who wouldn’t disclose where he went.
On Wednesday, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) said Cong had been on an unaccompanied pass to the community — in accordance with the terms of his Ontario Review Board disposition — on the day he went missing. When he didn’t return, CAMH said, it notified police at 6:50 p.m. ET.
“CAMH takes this incident very seriously,” the centre said, adding it has launched an internal review into this “specific and rare incident.”
As recently as April, Cong was found to pose a “significant threat to the safety of the public,” according to the review board documents.
The documents say Cong has schizophrenia and was living in a general forensic unit at CAMH.
Toronto police said Wednesday they are working with international law enforcement agencies to track down Cong, who is originally from China, according to records.
Police said they investigated his disappearance for 11 days before deciding to ask for the public’s help. Police did not identify him as a CAMH patient in the missing person notice and cited privacy reasons for not doing so. They also noted that CAMH told them Cong presented a low risk to public safety.
‘The cheese has slipped off the cracker’
There is nothing “low risk” about Cong’s actions, Ford said in Thursday’s statement.
“Protecting law-abiding citizens and families should have been the top priority of everyone involved. Clearly that was not the case.”
The Toronto Police Services Board “needs to get to the bottom of why the public was not informed sooner” about the fact Cong was missing, Ford’s statement went on.
“Finally, the federal government has some explaining to do. How could this person have been allowed to get on a plane with the public and leave the country?”
Ford’s language was less measured when he called in to a talk-radio program the same day, saying he will talk to police, the review board and CAMH.
In an interview on Newstalk 1010, Ford referred to Cong as a “nutcase” and decried allowing “crazy, crazy people that want to go around chopping people up” to walk free.
“The cheese has slipped off the cracker with this one,” Ford said.