Accused in Chinatown stabbings appears in Vancouver court by video

Blair Donnelly, who is in custody at Coquitlam’s Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, is to appear again on Sept. 27.

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A psychiatric patient facing three charges of aggravated assault stemming from three Chinatown stabbings a week ago that shocked the city made a brief appearance on Friday in Vancouver provincial court.

Blair Evan Donnelly, 64, appeared by video wearing a red T-shirt with a navy blue sweatshirt draped over his shoulders. He sat motionless, his mouth agape, with his gaze fixed steadily off camera for the appearance that lasted less than 10 minutes.

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The hearing was subject to a publication ban and Postmedia can’t report on any details. Also present by video was veteran defence lawyer Glen Orris, who is representing the accused.

Donnelly, who is in custody at Coquitlam’s Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, is to appear again on Sept. 27.

On Thursday Postmedia reported that Donnelly was approved for unescorted day passes from the psychiatric facilities despite an independent B.C. Review Board finding he posed a “significant threat” to public safety.

The director of adult forensic psychiatric services at the hospital used their discretion to give Donnelly unescorted access to the community, even though the three-person B.C. Review Board recommended he be kept in custody and closely supervised.

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Almost half of the BIA’s annual budget — about $240,000 — is allocated to hire full-time security for merchants in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /10102199A

Donnelly was on a day pass when he allegedly randomly stabbed three people at the Light Up Chinatown festival in Vancouver on Sunday. All three were treated in hospital and released.

In a decision in April, the review board concluded Donnelly “continues to meet the threshold of significant threat” because of his violent offences and unpredictable behaviour. The full seven-page decision was obtained this week by CHEK News.

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Former Abbotsford police chief Bob Rich was appointed by the province On Thursday to lead an independent review of how forensic psychiatric hospital patients with violent histories are allowed day passes.

“We don’t want this one incident to frame the perception of the entire neighbourhood, which has had so much work done,” said Jordan Eng, president of the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Association, on Friday. “What happened in this case could have happened anywhere in Vancouver.”

Almost half of the BIA’s annual budget — about $240,000 — is allocated to hire full-time security for merchants.

Vancouver city council early this year approved $710,000 in funds to clean up graffiti, improve cleaning and sanitation and start a Safewalk program for residents.

The provincial and federal governments contributed a combined $4 million for cleaning and revitalization, and in spring, Vancouver Police installed a public safety trailer with security cameras outside the Chinese Cultural Centre.

“We’ve been able to deal with the cleanup and the graffiti, but it’s time we started to tackle the root of the serious safety problem that’s gone unaddressed: chronic offenders,” said Eng.

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But Mark Lee, who works in Chinatown as a restaurant office manager, said while he has seen more foot patrols by police in Chinatown, “I’m not seeing any arrests go down or feeling any safer.”

Lee, a Chinatown grassroots community organizer who is involved in events over the next two weekends at the same plaza where the three people were stabbed, said he fears the incident will be used by politicians to “prove a point in calling for more cops” in the neighbourhood.

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