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Friday, April 11, 2008

EDITORIAL: Memos show officials stalled details of Dziekanski taser death

April 11, 2008
St. Catharines Standard

Internal documents from the Canadian Border Services Agency show it was more concerned about protecting its reputation than providing information about a Polish immigrant who died at Vancouver International Airport, last year.

The documents, obtained by CTV News, show significant co-operation between the airport, RCMP and border services officials in controlling the release of details following the Oct. 14, 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski.

"Hopefully things will be quiet on this until tomorrow AM," reads one document. "The material has been cleansed too much," reads another.

The documents show the federal agency and the Vancouver airport authority worked closely with the RCMP to ensure the three had their media messaging synchronized after an agitated Dziekanski died.

Two days after the death, the border agency came up with key messages for its spokesmen to deliver to the media - something called media lines. "The CBSA is co-operating fully with RCMP," was one line. "It would be inappropriate to comment on the case," was another. An e-mail dated Oct. 25 from CBSA communications states: "The RCMP are hoping to stay with the no comment line today."

It was six weeks before the border agency made any kind of comment on Dziekanski's death. In the immediate aftermath, reporters were directed to Ottawa. The policy appears to have raised concerns from one local manager with the agency who wrote: "Our silence is deafening and criticism of our failure to speak is mounting."

CTV contacted the Canadian Border Services Agency for a comment on the released documents but did not hear back.

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