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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Dead man's family and Montreal politicians join call for Taser moratorium

December 8, 2007

The family of a Montreal man who died after he was shocked with a Taser is joining elected officials and the Quebec Black Coalition in calling for a moratorium on Taser use in this province. Quilem Registre, 38, died in a hospital on Oct. 18, four days after he had been shot by Montreal police using a stun gun. He had been stopped in the St. Michel district on suspicion of driving while impaired. The cause of his death has not been made public.

"We have little other information," Evans Sanelus, a cousin of Registre, said yesterday. "We haven't been able to get the police report and the coroner's report will take up to nine months." Registre was Quebec's second Taser-related death in a month. He died four days after the highly publicized Taser death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport.

The provincial Public Security Department has ordered the Sûreté du Québec to investigate Registre's death, SQ Sgt. Joyce Kemp said, so the provincial police force won't comment on the incident until the investigation has been completed.

Among those who spoke at a news conference yesterday were Outremont MP Thomas Mulcair of the New Democratic Party, Parti Québécois social services critic Louise Harel, and two councillors from the borough of Côte des Neiges/Notre Dame de Grâce: Marvin Rotrand and Warren Allmand.

"We got along fine before there were Tasers," Mulcair said. "There are other measures police can resort to. The problem is that we have come to a consensus that the Taser is safe. It's not." Tasers fire 50,000 volts of electricity and are used to immobilize an aggressive person. Since 2001, nearly 300 people have died after they were shocked with a Taser, Amnesty International reports.

Several of those who spoke yesterday said police are too quick to use the stun guns. "Tasers make for lazy police officers, not professional police officers," said Rotrand, a councillor for Snowdon ward. "They're supposed to be used only as a last resort, which is not the case." The group criticized Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis's handling of the matter, saying 12 of the 14 members on a committee he mandated to study Tasers hail from law enforcement organizations and some have already publicly stated they are in favour of Taser use.

"I don't believe this committee will pass the public litmus test of independence and transparency," Rotrand said. "There are several important questions that have to be answered. For one: Is the device safe?" The committee will do a proper study of the issue and will issue its findings Dec. 17, said Philippe Archambault, a spokesperson for Dupuis. The minister will wait until then before making a decision on the use of tasers, Archambault added.

Registre's family is organizing a march against police brutality Friday at 11 a.m. at the corner of St. Michel Blvd. and Iberville St.

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