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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kelly McParland: Alcohol killed Robert Dziekanski. Seriously. Quit laughing.

October 14, 2009
Kelly McParland, National Post

Some years back I happened to attend a Congressional hearing in Washington that featured the CEOs of the top U.S. tobacco companies.

Henry Waxman, the ultra-Liberal congressman who is now busy trying to torpedo any hope of Congress crafting a workable health plan, was intent on embarrassing them. In an inspired move, he asked them to stand, raise their hands and swear under oath that they didn't believe smoking was in any way harmful to health.

Well, you have to earn your money, so they did as exactly as requested, standing side by side with their hands in the air, professing utter bewilderment at the suggestion all those people dying of lung cancer might have lived longer if they hadn't been sucking back 20 or 30 smokes a day. Surely it was all just a coincidence.

There is an oft-used photo of that moment, but perhaps David Neave has never seen it. Lawyers have to earn their money too, and Mr. Neave is the lawyer for Taser International, so on Tuesday he had to appear before the Braidwood inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski and profess with as straight a face as possible that there was no evidence "the Taser device caused or contributed to his death."

Nope, it was all just an unfortunate coincidence. Or maybe worse: a conspiracy against the good name of Taser International, those fine folks who manufacture devices capable of firing 50,000 volts of electricity into some poor sap's body.

"We say it is time this uninformed speculation about the role the Taser device may have had in this case be dispelled and the attack on Taser's reputation ended," intoned Mr. Neave.

Mr. Neave assured the hearing, which has spent months listening to details of Mr. Dziekanski's death, which came after he'd been zapped five times with a Tazer in the hands of a bunch of RCMP officers. A key bit of evidence is the famous video, which shows Mr. Dziekanski alive and well, if a bit upset. The cops arrive, Taser him five times, he turns blue and dies.

Hey, it could happen to anyone. The guy is fine, 100% healthy; he gets Tasered five times, which has absolutely no effect on him, but just happens to die of some completely unrelated factor at the exact same moment he's being Tasered by a harmless little electricity gun. I mean, what are the odds eh?

Mr. Neave had to make sure the inquiry understood just how tragic a coincidence it all was. The cops could have Tasered Dziekanski every 30 seconds for months on end and he'd have been just fine and dandy, if not for that unfortunate fatal attack he just happened to have at that moment.

As Canwest reported, "Neave said Dziekanski presented the classic profile of someone who dies during restraint by the police, as he appeared to be in a state of delirium prior to the incident, which was likely caused by alcohol abuse and withdrawal."

Oh sure, blame the alcohol industry, as if booze ever hurt anyone.

Neave noted that the poor ill-informed boobies who foolishly concluded Dziekanski's multiple tasering contributed to his death "had no scientific studies to back up their claims", while "experts" who said Tasers did not cause the heart to stop functioning had conducted studies to support their findings.

Wow, I mean is that convincing or what? Taser put forward "experts," not just drunks off the street like the commission used. Those "experts" had "studies" to prove their point, and we all know that "studies" conducted by "experts" are 100% fool-proof and not subject to doubt.

Now, you may want to recall that the tobacco companies survived for years on their 100% foolproof argument that there was no scientific proof connecting tobacco to cancer, and rolled out expert after expert to present studies backing up their claim. But don't make the mistake of concluding that the Taser industry is engaged in exactly the same old game, or that Mr. Neave was spouting utter nonsense on Tuesday.

This time it's really true. There is just no way that police killed Mr. Dziekanski with their Taser, no matter what the video and the evidence shows. I mean, who you going to believe, David Neave or your own eyes?

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