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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Parti Quebecois wants probe after Taser used on mentally challenged man

October 8, 2009
CBC News

The Parti Québécois is asking for an investigation into the alleged use of a stun gun by Quebec City police on a mentally challenged man living in a group home.

The incident happened Aug. 6 when police were called to a group home where a man with Down syndrome had reportedly become agitated and refused to cooperate with authorities.

The 43-year-old man, identified only as "Martin," received medical treatment and has no apparent lasting effects.

Questioned on the issue by the Opposition in the national assembly, the response from Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis was brusque.

Marc Goudreau, right, says he's concerned about the safety of his daughter, who lives in a group home and is also prone to aggressive episodes. (CBC) "There is a simple truth," he said. "When you don't obey police orders — you are opening yourself to a certain number of things."

Dupuis said Tasers are only used by police "in exceptional cases."

"The idea that when you don't obey police — you get electrocuted — is completely crazy," replied PQ house leader Stéphane Bédard.

The father of a 26-year-old woman who also lives in a group home expressed concern about the case during a news conference organized by the PQ.

"[My] daughter can, because of her syndromes ... have aggressive episodes," said Marc Goudreau.

"My question is — is she the next person who will be Tasered?"

"As parents, we put our children in the care of an institution — we want them to be taken care of," said Goudreau.

Moratorium sought
The Parti Québécois has called for a moratorium on the use of stun guns following a series of Taser-related cases in Quebec that have garnered media attention.

In September 2007, Italian immigrant Claudio Castagnetta died in the custody of Quebec City police after he was struck several times by a stun gun.

The coroner's office ruled Castagnetta's death was the result of self-inflicted wounds, and not the Taser. However, coroner Jean Brochu said authorities waited too long to administer appropriate medical care.

A 38-year-old Montreal man died after being stunned by police in October 2007. The coroner's report into the death of Quilem Registre was highly critical of how police used the Taser, and concluded it might have contributed to his death. Registre, who was described as being highly agitated on the night of his arrest, had cocaine and alcohol in his bloodstream.

In December 2007, Quebec put in place a series of strict rules for the use of Tasers by police, following the tabling of a report by a group of experts commissioned to study the question.

Police in the province are only allowed to use a stun gun when a suspect poses a serious risk to himself, a member of the public or a police officer.

If a suspect is severely agitated, police are expected to call for medical assistance before using any kind of physical force.

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