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Monday, October 15, 2007

Man's death sparks taser backlash

October 15, 2007
The Globe and Mail and Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — Another taser-related death in Canada has set off a call for national standards on when and how the weapons are used. Emile Therien, past president of the Canada Safety Council, says no one knows how many times a day officers in Canada use the conducted energy weapons. Mr. Therien, who took part in a RCMP-National Research Council review of tasers, says police now simply accept the manufacturer's recommendations but there are no Canadian standards. He says every time an officer brings out a gun it must be reported, but there's no such requirement for tasers.

In the latest death Sunday, RCMP at the Vancouver International Airport tried to subdue a man who police said had been acting erratically, yelling, pounding on windows and throwing computer equipment.

Mr. Therien says as many as 16 people have died in the last four and a half years [in Canada] after they were tasered by police officers.

The dead man, who was believed to be travelling by himself, had arrived in Vancouver shortly before the incident. He had a passport and luggage, but police would not release his name until they confirmed his identity with Interpol, an international law enforcement agency.

Witnesses did not recognize the language he was speaking, although some believed he was speaking an Eastern European language.

Mr. Therien's stand against tasers echoes that of Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward, who spoke out against the weapon after the man's death on Sunday.

According to Mr. Ward, the following people have died in the past 4½ after being tasered:

April 19, 2003: Terrance Hanna, 51, Burnaby, B.C.
July 22, 2003: Clay Willey, 33, Prince George, B.C.
Sept. 28, 2003: Clark Whitehouse, 34, Whitehorse, Yukon
March 23, 2004: Perry Ronald, 28, Edmonton
May 1, 2004: Roman Andreichikov, 25, Vancouver
May 13, 2004: Peter Lamonday, 38, London, Ont.
June 23, 2004: Robert Bagnell, 44, Vancouver
July 17, 2004: Jerry Knight, 29, Mississauga
Aug. 8, 2004: Samuel Truscott, 43, Kingston, Ont.
May 5, 2005: Kevin Geldart, 34, Moncton, N.B.
June 30, 2005: Gurmeet Sandhu, 41, Surrey, B.C.
July 1, 2005: James Foldi, 39, Beamsville, Ont.
July 15, 2005: Paul Sheldon Saulnier, 42, Digby, N.S.
Dec. 24, 2005: Alesandro Fiacco, 33, Edmonton
Aug. 30, 2006: Jason Doan, 28, Red Deer, Alta.
Oct. 14, 2007: Unidentified male, Vancouver airport

Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward, who has been following the issue closely for several years, said the gun, which generates a 50,000-volt electrical charge, was introduced in Canada without any independent safety testing. Sixteen people have died in Canada and almost 300 in North America in recent years after they were stunned by a taser, Mr. Ward said. North American police and manufacturers would have the public believe that tasers are not responsible for any deaths, "but that is simply not true," he said. "I'm not convinced these devices are safe. I feel their use should be discontinued until there has been independent testing done of them."

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