October 27, 2008
The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER, B.C. — The mother of a Polish immigrant who died after being shocked with an RCMP Taser will have to wait even longer for answers in his death.
The inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death at Vancouver International Airport a year ago was originally to start in October but has twice been delayed, first to Nov. 12 and now until Jan. 19 in Vancouver.
Zofia Cisowski, his mother, said Monday she was shaking when she learned that the inquiry had been put off again.
"I am so disappointed," Cisowski said. "But I am not surprised because they postponed two times already."
Commission counsel Art Vertlieb said the delay is necessary while Crown lawyers consider charges against the RCMP officers involved in the Oct. 14, 2007 incident.
"The commission needs the co-operation of the RCMP, including access to the Dziekanski case files," Vertlieb said in a statement announcing the delay. "But that's unlikely to happen until a decision is made on charges."
B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal agreed the public deserves answers but said he understands why the process is taking as long as it is.
He said laying charges against any of the officers would have serious repercussions.
"I think that given our high standard that we use before we lay charges, we want to ensure that there is a substantial likelihood for conviction before we lay the charges," Oppal said.
Last month, RCMP lawyers advised the commission that they would not be able to participate in the commission's proceedings until the Crown has made a decision on charges.
Crown counsel expected that decision would be made by the second week of October but it has been delayed as the Crown waits for additional information from RCMP investigators.
"As things now stand, the commission cannot get access to the RCMP files," Vertlieb said. "That means we don't know which witnesses RCMP investigators have interviewed and whether they are people who may be able to help us with our work."
Without that information, Vertlieb said, it would be difficult for the inquiry to provide Dziekanski's family and the public with a complete record of his death.
Stan Lowe, spokesman for the Criminal Justice Branch, said the Crown is still waiting for some key documents, particularly expert reports, to be completed.
"We're working towards getting all the material that we require to complete our charge assessment so that we can confidently say that we have reviewed all the available evidence when we come to a decision," Lowe said.
Thomas Braidwood, head of the inquiry commission and a retired B.C. Appeal Court justice, said he was disappointed that the hearing would again be postponed, adding that the public deserves to know what happened.
Braidwood was appointed by Oppal to head the two commissions of inquiry in February.
The first phase of the inquiry examined the use, safety, and effectiveness of conducted energy weapons in B.C. by police forces other than the RCMP. The report on the first commission phase is currently being written.
The second phase will focus specifically on Dziekanski's death.
The inquiry commissioner can compel testimony and make a finding of misconduct in the case.
Dziekanski wandered for hours in the international arrivals area of the Vancouver airport after his arrival from Poland. Police were eventually summoned after an agitated Dziekanski threw an airport computer monitor to the ground.
He died on the floor of the airport after being hit with at least two jolts from a police Taser.
The B.C. public inquiry is one of a dozen investigations launched after the death, including a review by the Ontario Provincial Police, the B.C. Coroner's office, the RCMP Public Complaints Commission and a House of Commons committee inquiry.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Monday, October 27, 2008
October 27, 2008