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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Ontario rejects call for banning taser use on minors

February 4, 2009
The Canadian Press/Globe and Mail

TORONTO — The Ontario government is rejecting calls for a ban on the use of tasers on young people.

Irwin Elman, the province's advocate for children, is calling for a moratorium on using stun guns on minors, except in extreme circumstances. His appeal follows reports that a teenage girl from a remote First Nation was apparently zapped with a taser in a jail cell last July. A lawsuit filed by her family alleges the teen, who was 14 at the time, was shocked after being told to stop picking at the paint in the holding facility in Sioux Lookout, Ont.

Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci says he's heard from Mr. Elman but isn't prepared to act on his request. Mr. Bartolucci says police officers should be able to use all the tools in their arsenal when dealing with a dangerous situation.

And he says age should not be a factor in deciding how to deal with an individual. “That police officer should have all the tools necessary to ensure that he or she chooses a course of action that protects the individual, protects the public and protects the police officer — regardless of age,” Mr. Bartolucci said.

He also said the province is waiting on the results of a study into the use of tasers. “I'm not going to make a knee-jerk reaction to any individual case,” Mr. Bartolucci said. “I'm going to wait for the results of that study to come out and then we will determine whether or not there should be an expansion of the use of tasers or a reduction.” He said the study should be ready early this year.

A statement of claim filed in court alleges two Ontario Provincial Police officers entered the girl's cell without warning, “violently” pulled her to the floor and applied the taser to her right upper thigh for three to five seconds.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The girl, who has fetal alcohol syndrome, had been arrested for underage drinking, the family's lawyer said. The family says the incident was caught on tape. Mr. Elman said he's viewed the tape and calls the incident an example of “usage creep” with tasers. The girl's family is suing the provincial police force for $500,000.

They are also seeking an order that would prohibit the use of stun guns on minors except in cases where a life is clearly at risk.


And, according to the Ottawa Citizen:

Premier Dalton McGuinty was equally non-committal. “As you know, we have a panel that’s out there taking a look at this,” he told reporters. “We await their advice.”

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