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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Stockwell Day rebuffs call for full national review of taser use

November 15, 2007
CBC News

Federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day shied away from calls for a full national review on Tasers Thursday, saying there are already a number of ongoing investigations and reviews into their use. Several reviews of Tasers are already underway, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day told the House of Commons during question period Thursday.

The call by the federal Liberals follows the release of a video of a man dying after being stunned with a Taser at Vancouver airport. "Any of us who watched that video footage can certainly understand the shock and the grief especially experienced by the mother of the deceased individual," Day said Thursday in the House of Commons.

Robert Dziekanski died shortly after he was stunned at least twice with a Taser by RCMP officers at Vancouver Airport on Oct. 14. He was the 18th person to die in Canada in a Taser incident since 2003.

Asked whether he would agree to public hearings about the overall use of Taser weapons, Day said that both the RCMP and the commissioner for complaints against the RCMP are conducting investigations into the incident. Day added that Quebec has also launched its own review and that he had already asked for a review of the use of the weapons. He said the RCMP is reviewing the practices related to Taser use and that a report is being prepared. He said he is waiting to see the conclusions of that report before commenting. "We want to make sure things are maintained, that public safety is maintained and answers are found on this particular issue," said Day.

Currently there are four investigations into the death of Dziekanski underway. The B.C. coroner, the RCMP, the public complaints commissioner for the RCMP, and the Vancouver Airport Authority are all conducting their own investigations.

But Liberal public safety critic Ujjal Dosanjh said a public-interest review of the issue from a national perspective is necessary. Dosanjh said the government must appoint an independent body to comprehensively review Taser use in Canada and to produce clear national guidelines for law enforcement officers. He said a private report to Day is unacceptable and that any review must be public.

Dosanjh said Thursday he has been flooded with angry letters and e-mails as a result of the Taser video, released yesterday. "The number of deaths, and in the manner in which some of them have occurred, demands that we do a national review, the government undertake a national independent review of Taser use across the country."

Dosanjh is not in favour of a moratorium on the use of Tasers because he doesn't want to take what he calls " a valuable tool" away from police. But the Liberal MP said too many deaths in Canada have been associated with their use, and they need to be studied.

Federal NDP public safety critic Penny Priddy said she is concerned that the RCMP are investigating their own officers in the airport Taser death. Priddy said the Mounties should hand the entire investigation over to Vancouver police, to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.

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