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Thursday, May 15, 2008

'I want justice,' sobbing mom tells taser inquiry

May 15, 2008
Neal Hall, Canwest News Service

VANCOUVER - The mother of a Polish immigrant who died after being shot with a Taser by Vancouver police told a public inquiry Thursday that her son would still be alive if they didn't use the controversial weapon on him.

"I know my son would not die if he was not Tasered," Zofia Cisowski told the Braidwood inquiry probing the use of Tasers in B.C. "My confidence and faith in the RCMP have been shattered," she said. "I want justice." Cisowski added she has faith that the inquiry will make recommendations "so another mother doesn't experience as much pain as I do." She broke down crying at the end of her short submission.

Cisowski's son, Robert Dziekanski, died Oct. 14, 2007, at Vancouver International Airport after he received multiple electrical jolts from an RCMP Taser. The incident was captured on amateur video, which resulted in an international public outcry and B.C.'s attorney general ordering the inquiry into the use of Tasers in B.C. before Thomas Braidwood, a retired appeal court judge.

The mother's lawyer, Walter Kosteckyj, a former Mountie, told the inquiry there should be a moratorium on Taser use in B.C. until the weapon is proved to be safe. "My client submits that the issues surrounding the Taser are so overwhelming that a complete moratorium must be put in place," the lawyer said. "The moratorium should stay in place until the concerns raised over safety have been answered and all the proper training and reporting concerns have been addressed."

Kosteckyj added: "It's time to put the genie back in the bottle and to start from square one. The advocates for the Taser need to prove that the weapon is safe, by thorough research, and that it will be used in the right circumstances and those safeguards exist that the public can reply upon."

At the very least, the electronic weapon should be repositioned higher in the police use-of-force standards and should only be used as an alternative to deadly force, Kosteckyj said. He said the weapon is now used in low-risk situations.

"The Taser appears to be reducing thinking time (of police)," Kosteckyj said. "In the Dziekanski case, there was no need to rush and move to the Taser. It is easily available and so four police officers, rather than take the time to diffuse the situation, chose confrontation."

He said the actions of the officers "embarrassed the country."

Kosteckyj said his client, a single mother who had been a carpenter in Poland, came to Canada nine years ago and now is living in Kamloops, B.C., where she works as a caretaker and for a janitorial service. Her goal was to reunite her family by bringing her son, an only child, to Canada to live with her so he could enjoy the freedom and opportunity that Canada had offered her, Kosteckyj said.

"She certainly never expected to be making a presentation before an inquiry, which is followed with national interest, but then again she didn't expect that she would be celebrating last Christmas on her own and laying flowers at an international airport to celebrate the birthday of her son or indeed spending Mother's Day alone as she did over the course of last weekend," the lawyer said.

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