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The Braidwood Inquiry

(Links accessed June 20, 2009)

Robert Dziekanski was killed at Vancouver International Airport October 14, 2007 when RCMP officers used a Taser on him several times.

On June 19, 2009 Mr. Thomas Braidwood decided to adjourn the inquiry into his death until September 22, saying the untimely disclosure of an internal RCMP e-mail will require further testimony. He appeared to be very angry according to CTV News, which described the e-mail as a bombshell. “It suggests officers discussed using the Taser even before they confronted Dziekanski.”  Supt. Wayne Rideout, the head of the integrated homicide investigation team into Mr. Dziekanski's death, admitted under oath that he had lied about this incident. "Appalling," the word used by Mr. Braidwood, doesn't even come close to describing what's going on according to the Star Phoenix.

Testifying before the inquiry, the four Mounties had said under oath that they did not talk about how to deal with a man who was reported to be causing some commotion at the airport. Dziekanski was zapped repeatedly with a Taser by Const. Kwesi Millington seconds after he came face to face with the RCMP team led by Cpl. Benjamin Montgomery Robinson. The four Mounties had claimed that they feared for their safety when Dziekanski picked up an office stapler.” [my emphasis] 35 seconds after they arrived they tasered a distressed man to death, then handcuffed him, and put a knee to his neck while he turned blue and stopped breathing. See for yourself and watch the video, which was shown around the world. Check 7:11 in particular, where he's already on the ground and it seems that he is getting hit brutally several times with a club by one of the officers. After you watch this video you will have an idea why the RCMP at first refused to return the video to the person who had filmed it and voluntarily given it to them. On the local news it was reported that they declined to remove the handcuffs when firemen (or ambulance technicians) asked for it so that they could properly treat the man. CTV's Paul Granger reported the airport authorities did not call emergency personal at YVR but instead called BC Ambulance. The former would have been on the scene in 2 minutes, the latter took 12. Maybe Robert Dziekanski's life could have been saved if he had been attended to ten minutes earlier. Furthermore, according to this newscast the Mounties did not attempt to revive Dziekanski even though they are trained in CPR.

It is hard to believe that four police officers felt seriously threatened by a man with a stapler. But if that is indeed true they are perhaps not suited for a job where much more dangerous situations could easily have to be dealt with. In any case, it goes much deeper. As Ian Mulgrew wrote in the Vancouver Sun: "This is no longer about four officers who made mistakes in judgment: It's about an organization that thinks it is above the law." And that fits a historical pattern. (See below)

Also, what I find difficult to accept is the short memory exhibited by newscasters. They practically fell over backward in describing the RCMP as a fine police force that was NOW stained in the eyes of Canadians. The memory of some commentators went back as far as Maher Arar and the appalling role the RCMP played in his kidnapping by US authorities in 2006 and “rendition” to Syria to be tortured  but none of the other previous “stains” were brought up.

For example, there was no mention of Ian Bush, who was shot in the back of his head on October 29th, 2005 by RCMP officer Koester while in custody. He was a 22-year-old mill worker arrested outside a local hockey rink for having an open beer and giving a false name to officers. Twenty minutes later he was dead.

"The next day, early Sunday morning, a sleepy Andrea Patrick, his sister, opened her door to an officer from the local RCMP. After being told that her 22 year-old brother, Ian Bush, was dead, the first question was, "How is he dead? Was it a motor vehicle accident?" The officer's reply was, 'All we can say is he's dead.' " In the next 8 months the family had no more news from the RCMP.

Assistant RCMP Commissioner Al Macintyre said the use of lethal force was necessary to ensure the officer's safety.Officer Koester claimed that he was being choked from behind [ ! ] to unconsciousness and acted in self defence. He was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Just before Christmas 2004, in Vanderhoof, BC Kevin St. Arnaud, was shot three times by Const. Ryan Sheremetta. He too was found innocent by the RCMP even though his partner, a veteran officer (who is now on leave) contradicted his testimony at the inquest.

The RCMP handle investigations of their own in-custody deaths. 22 people died between 2001 and 2005 while in RCMP custody.

In September 2006 I wrote about the Maher Arar affair and put it into the context of other RCMP wrongdoing:

Canadians could have expected that the RCMP had learned its lessons after its criminal activities of the break-ins at Agence de Presse Libre du Québec (APLQ) in October 1972 and at the headquarters of the Parti Quebecois, a legal political party in Quebec, became public knowledge. They also resorted to arson by burning down a barn alleged to have been the place of a planned meeting between members of the Black Panther Party and people belonging to the FLQ.

The then Solicitor-General of Canada, Francis Fox admitted five years later that the RCMP had participated in the illegal acts of burning the barn and the theft of dynamite in the Montreal area and that computer tapes containing the names of the members of the Parti Québécois had been taken by the RCMP in 1973.

The trial of Robert Samson, a former constable of the RCMP and a member of the RCMP Security Service, took place in Montreal in March 1976. Samson was in court on charges arising from the bombing of the Montreal residence of a Steinberg supermarket executive. During his trial, Samson testified that he had been involved in other questionable activities for the RCMP besides the bombing incident. When asked to explain he referred to "Operation Bricole." This was the code name for the unlawful entry and removal of documents from the Agence de Presse Libre du Québec (APLQ), a left-wing news agency located at 3459 St. Hubert Street, Montreal, which had occurred on 7 October 1972.

The APLQ matter was far from an isolated incident. The RCMP Security Service had indeed been involved in other unlawful activities.

Soon, more about activities of the RCMP Security Service that were not authorized or provided for by law became known, but the most disturbing revelations came from within the force itself. When ex-Staff Sergeant Donald McCleery and ex-Sergeant Gilles Brunet met with senior officials of the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice, on 6 and 23 June 1977, concerning their discharge from the force, they made allegations that other members of the RCMP Security Service had been involved in searches without warrants, unauthorized mail openings and the use of forged documents.

Jean-Guy Chrétien, an MP, claimed that police officers involved in these crimes were subsequently promoted.


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