Public inquiry into Taser death: Les
VICTORIA – Solicitor General John Les has apologized to the family of the man killed in an altercation with police at Vancouver airport Oct. 14, and announced a public inquiry will be held into the incident.
The independent inquiry commissioner will be chosen and receive terms of reference in the "near future," but the government gave no exact time frame. The inquiry is to cover not only the use of Taser stun guns by police, but also the actions of Richmond RCMP officers and federal immigration authorities at the airport.
Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski was in the airport's international arrivals area for 10 hours before his final confrontation with police. A video taken by a Victoria man returning from overseas showed Dziekanski throwing a small table and a computer terminal before four RCMP officers approached him and used the electric stun gun before struggling with him on the floor.
In the legislature, opposition critics repeatedly demanded that Les announce a temporary suspension of all Taser use. Les rejected the suggestion, adding that the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police are to meet Wednesday to review their protocols for Taser use.
"We particularly apologize to Mr. Dziekanski's family," Les said. "They will carry this tragedy with them for a long, long time."
NDP leader Carole James said a moratorium on Taser use is "critical" for public and police confidence in what has been considered a non-lethal alternative to guns. She said its use should be suspended while police review their training for the use of Tasers.
"Police officers do an incredibly difficult job," James said. "They deserve to have clarity around the use of Tasers as well."
Gary Bass, commanding officer for the RCMP's E division in B.C., said the force will cooperate fully with the provincial inquiry, as well as a coroner's inquest that will be held into the events leading up to Dziekanski's death.
The RCMP is conducting its own investigation into the case, and has called on the Ontario Provincial Police to oversee its actions. Federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has also announced a review of Taser policies.
Les said justice ministers from across Canada met and discussed Tasers last week, and they agreed unanimously that they should continue to be available to police.