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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Braidwood inquiry 'a battle of experts': lawyer

May 9, 2009
Peter Grainger, CTV

Lines have been drawn between Taser supporters on one side and Taser detractors on the other at the Braidwood Inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski. At the centre of the debate are the experts.

Dr. Zian Tseng, a leading cardiac specialist, told the inquiry he believed the Taser was a direct factor in Dziekanski's death at Vancouver International Airport in 2007.

"In my opinion -- in that scenario -- he wouldn't have died in a sudden death, if the Taser was not introduced in this situation," Tseng said.

This is testimony the lawyer for Taser International didn't want the Braidwood Inquiry to hear, saying "the evidence has no value."

On Thursday, in a surprise motion, David Neave asked that the reports by Tseng and several other doctors who were critical of Tasers be blocked, even though the non-critical reports by scientists employed by the manufacturer had already been heard.

"This is devolving into... has become, a battle of experts," he told Judge Thomas Braidwood.

Braidwood later decided the testimony of Tseng and the other medical experts would be allowed.

Taser international's lawyer wasn't the only one critical of Tseng. Counsel for the Government of Canada -- Helen Roberts -- questioned the specialist about every other possible contributing factor of Dziekanski's death.

Tseng agreed that tobacco could have had a negative impact on Dziekanski's body.

Roberts also asked about Dziekanski's lack of food and sleep, his agitation and his fear of flying, but nothing about the Taser's role.

Earlier in the inquest, she tried blocking RCMP officers, like Superintendent Wayne Rideout, from appearing at the inquiry.

This upsets former B.C. Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh. He gave political permission to introduce Tasers a decade ago. Dosanjh now believes he wasn't told the truth about the safety of the weapons.

He says the federal government and the RCMP are not serving the public interest.

"By impeding certain witnesses or trying to prevent certain witnesses from coming before the inquiry is preventing the commissioner from coming to a conclusion based on all of the evidence -- that is insulting to Canadians," he said.

Dosanjh believes the most prudent thing Canada could do is take Tasers away from the police until Judge Braidwood makes his final recommendations.

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