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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

RCMP role in taser inquiry unclear

Hey, who needs the RCMP at the Braidwood Inquiry anyway?! Taser International has been granted "participant status" so perhaps THEY can represent the RCMP too!!

To see the criteria applied to each applicant and the rationale for approval/denial of participant status, click here and then click on "View Ruling #1 - September 16, 2008".

September 17, 2008
MARK HUME, Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER — The government of Poland and the mother of Robert Dziekanski, the Polish immigrant who died shortly after being shot by a police taser at Vancouver International Airport, will participate in a planned public inquiry.

But the role of the RCMP, whose officers jolted Mr. Dziekanski with the controversial weapon, is still unclear.

In a ruling issued yesterday, retired judge Thomas Braidwood, who is conducting two separate inquiries into the incident, granted participant status to seven of the 11 agencies and individuals that applied. He rejected three people, saying they should apply as witnesses, and said a fourth had no factual involvement with the incident and wouldn't be affected by the commission's findings.

The RCMP did not apply and are not on the participant list.

The provincially appointed commission has the authority to compel participants to appear, however, and Chris Freimond, a spokesman for the Braidwood Commissions of Inquiry, said the question of RCMP involvement "hasn't been decided yet." Although the RCMP are not currently listed as participants, Mr. Freimond said: "That could change."

The RCMP's communications department did not have an immediate response.

Mr. Dziekanski, 40, died in the airport terminal last October, shortly after an RCMP officer shot him with a taser. He had been wandering in the arrivals terminal for hours, growing agitated, unable to effectively communicate because of his difficulty with English, and apparently afraid to leave the area because he had failed to contact his mother, who had been waiting outside the security zone.

The incident drew global attention because of a graphic video that was taken by another air traveller.

Last February, B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal appointed Mr. Braidwood, a retired B.C. Court of Appeal justice, to conduct two inquiries into the incident. The first phase, done in May, broadly examined the use and safety of conducted energy weapons. A report is due Nov. 30.

The second phase, to begin in Vancouver on Oct. 20, will inquire into the death of Mr. Dziekanksi.

In his ruling yesterday, Mr. Braidwood granted participant status to Zofia Cisowski (Mr. Dziekanski's mother), the Vancouver Airport Authority, Public Service Alliance of Canada, Richmond Fire and Rescue, Taser International, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Vancouver Consulate, Government of the Republic of Poland.

Mr. Braidwood described the application by Donald Rosenbloom, a Vancouver lawyer representing the government of Poland, as "the most troubling" of those he had to consider. Through Mr. Freimond, Mr. Braidwood indicated that by "troubling" he meant it was a difficult decision because it wasn't clear how the Polish government might contribute.

"I don't know quite why he said that, but he obviously reviewed our application and felt it was appropriate," Mr. Rosenbloom said.

In the application, Mr. Rosenbloom said the circumstances of Mr. Dziekanski's death "remain a focus of national concern in Poland" and the government "wishes to have the option to examine witnesses and become involved in the fact-finding component of the Inquiry."

All participants can make submissions, but Mr. Braidwood has not yet decided which of them may call and cross-examine witnesses.

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