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Saturday, March 07, 2009

EDITORIAL: How could this happen in Canada?

March 7, 2009
Peterborough Examiner

With the Braidwood Inquiry into the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski after he was hit by a stun gun now adjourned until March 23, Canadians are left asking the same questions they've had from the start.

How could this happen? How, in a first-world country that prides itself on multiculturalism and human rights, could a man who did not speak English, legally landing at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 13, 2007, expecting simply to be reunited with his mother, end up dead 10 hours later?

Dziekanski would be alive today if only someone in authority in all that time, as he wandered around in secure and non-secure areas, becoming increasingly agitated, had taken charge. Had made it his or her business to attend to his well-being and reunite him with his mother.

A mother, who, after repeated efforts to find out where her son was, worriedly went home seven hours after his flight landed, having wrongly been told he was nowhere to be found.

Last week's testimony by RCMP Const. Kwesi Millington, who fired a 50,000-volt Taser up to five times at the distraught 40-year-old early on the morning of Oct. 14, 2007 -- while three others officers wrestled with him on the ground as he writhed in agony -- failed to allay these concerns.

Not with the discrepancies between Millington's recollection of events shortly after they happened, along with those of two other RCMP officers who have testified -- a fourth has yet to do so -- and what the now-famous video recording Dziekanski's fatal confrontation with police showed.

What the video doesn't show is Dziekanski -- as Millington incorrectly described him at the time -- screaming or moving aggressively toward the officers, nor "wildly" waving a stapler, when he was hit, without warning, with repeated Taser blasts, moments after the officers' arrival.

Inquiry Commissioner Thomas Braidwood will determine the facts in this case. But what is already clear is that so many opportunities to avert this tragedy were lost, it's disturbing to know it happened in Canada and frightening to think it could ever happen again.

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