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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

RCMP officers will have to appear before taser inquiry

August 13, 2008
Chad Skelton, Canwest News Service

VANCOUVER - The four RCMP officers who Tasered Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski will almost certainly appear before the inquiry into his death when it resumes this October, inquiry lawyer Art Vertlieb said Tuesday.

Under B.C.'s Public Inquiry Act, retired judge Thomas Braidwood, who is heading the inquiry, has the power to force the officers to testify.

However, Vertlieb said he doesn't think that will be necessary. "We're confident the RCMP is going to want to co-operate in a voluntary way," said Vertlieb. "This is a totally independent commission and this is the best opportunity for people to tell the commission what happened."

Dziekanski died at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007, shortly after being Tasered by RCMP officers.

The integrated homicide investigation team completed its investigation into Dziekanski's death in June and forwarded its report to Crown counsel.

None of the officers has been charged.

On June 25, Braidwood wrapped up the first "study" phase of his inquiry, which looked at how police use Tasers in general. Braidwood heard from about 50 presenters and received more than 40 written submissions.

On Oct. 20, the second phase of the inquiry will begin, looking specifically at the circumstances of Dziekanski's death. The second phase, unlike the first, gives Braidwood the power to make findings of misconduct against individuals, and to order people to testify before him.

On Tuesday, the inquiry officially began accepting applications from those who want to appear before it.

However, Vertlieb noted several agencies have already expressed an interest in appearing, including the Polish government, the Canada Border Services Agency, the B.C. Ambulance Service, the Vancouver airport, the RCMP and Richmond Fire-Rescue.

Inquiry representative Chris Freimond said not all those who apply will be allowed to appear. "They have to have some constructive input," said Freimond.

The second phase of the inquiry is expected to last six weeks, though it could go longer.

Braidwood's report covering the first phase of the inquiry is scheduled to be delivered to B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal on Nov. 30.

The report on the second phase of the inquiry will likely be completed some time in 2009.

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