One of the RCMP officers who responded the night Robert Dziekanski was Tasered and died at Vancouver International Airport in 2007 has filed a lawsuit claiming the force's "negligent" actions have cost him his career and his health.
Const. Gerry Rundel, who was acquitted of perjury for his testimony about the Polish immigrant's death, has been on a graduated return-to-work since the fall of last year after being away on sick leave with post-traumatic stress disorder.
In a 19-page statement of claim filed today in Nanaimo, B.C., Rundel claims the force has made him a "scapegoat" for public criticism of the RCMP that night, though he was acting in accordance with training.
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"As a result, the plaintiff, together with the other members, was personally brought into public contempt and publicly shamed," according to the statement of claim.
Rundel filed the claim against the Attorney General of Canada and B.C.'s Justice Ministry, which are the employers representing the RCMP.
Tainted as 'bad apples'
Dziekanski died early in the morning of Oct. 14, 2007, at the Vancouver airport.
The initial RCMP account — delivered hours later by then spokesman Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre — claimed Dziekanski had been pounding on windows and throwing things before he was Tasered, which was false.
The RCMP's "persistent refusal to set the record straight," despite Lemaitre's request to issue a correction, was the first of many missteps that left Rundel and fellow officers hung out to dry, appearing complicit in a perceived cover-up, the suit alleges.
As a result, Rundel "sought out medical attention to deal with the psychological impact in coping with stress, anger, anxiety, sleep disorder as well as physical ailments that … persist," according to the documents.
The suit alleges that the RCMP apology to Dziekanski's mother and Commissioner Bob Paulson's 2012 letter pledging to rid the force of "bad apples" were poorly timed actions that unnecessarily tainted the reputations of the officers.
Rundel maintains that he acted in accordance with his training at the time and didn't fire the Taser or order its use. While he was acquitted of perjury for his testimony at the Braidwood inquiry, the senior officer, former corporal Monty Robinson, and Const. Kwesi Millington were convicted of perjury.
Suit alleges pressure to return to work
Beyond the loss of reputation, the lawsuit alleges that since Dziekanski's death, Rundel has been harassed on the force.
The suit claims that in 2010, after Rundel was diagnosed with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, he was pressured to testify on a large drug file and told that refusing to do so was like being "a firefighter afraid of fire," something that would put his future at the RCMP in a negative light.
Last year, the suit claims, Rundel was pressured to return to work regardless of medical advice.
"The plaintiff has suffered permanent and irreparable harm including extreme embarrassment, loss of reputation, extreme stress resulting in disabling psychological and physical injury" and had his career destroyed, the suit alleges.
Rundel is claiming damages, including "aggravated and/or punitive damages," and compensation for loss of income and future pension benefits.
A statement of defence has not yet been filed.