A festival in Vancouver’s Chinatown ended abruptly after a triple stabbing occurred on Sunday, leaving victims severely wounded and the community reeling. It has been revealed that the assailant behind the stabbing was on a day release from a forensic psychiatric hospital.

The festival, known as Light Up Chinatown! is aimed to spotlight Vancouver’s Chinatown community.

Blair Evan Donnelly, 64, is now in custody and has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault. 

According to the Vancouver Sun, Donnelly was first convicted of murder for stabbing his teenage daughter in 2006, however he was sent to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam, B.C. because he was found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder. 

Once a judge determines that the accused is not criminally responsible or unfit for trial, their care and conditions are decided by the B.C. Review Board, who will make decisions on where they will stay and if they can be allowed in public again. 

In 2009, Donnelly committed another stabbing while on a day release from the hospital. 

B.C. Premier David Eby reacted strongly after learning Donnelly was on day release.

“I am white hot angry that this person was released unaccompanied into the community to have a devastating impact on all the hard work of all of these community members,” said Eby on Tuesday in Surrey.

“I cannot fathom how someone who murdered his daughter was released in 2009, went out and stabbed somebody else, would then be released again, unaccompanied, somehow able to go out and buy a knife, go to Chinatown and stab three people. How is that possible?” said Eby.

The premier said that “an independent person” will investigate the case and look into the decision-making process behind the day release from the psychiatric hospital.

Carol Lee, chairwoman of the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation, said that the festival is meant to “bring the community together to celebrate the progress.” 

Crime in the Chinatown neighbourhood has been a concern for many in recent years. 

“(We) thought things were normal, but it’s a good reminder that there are a lot of things that are in play in Chinatown,” said Lee, who co-organizes the annual festival through her foundation. 

The victims of the attack were a Burnaby couple in their 60’s and a young Vancouver woman in her 20’s. They are all suffering severe but non-life-threatening injuries, according to Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer.

The attack occurred near the festival’s main stage around 6 p.m. and Donnelly was arrested shortly after, several blocks away.

“Please know that we’re in this together and that we have your backs and that crimes like this one that happened last night do not define the Chinatown community,” said Palmer.

Lee said the Chinatown neighbourhood is facing a number of issues that are “not going to be an easy fix.”

“So, we’re going to have setbacks along the way. But I think that we’re on the right path, and it will take us time to sort of regroup (for) what will come next,” she said. “I have no doubt that the community will come together, stronger and more determined to make the neighbourhood a safe place for all,” added Lee.