The mother of Polish visitor Robert Dziekanski, who died in October 2007 after RCMP subdued him with a Taser, says now that the police force has apologized, she might finally be able to sleep at night.
Zofia Cisowski made the statement after the RCMP deputy commissioner for the Pacific region, Gary Bass, formally apologized to her during a news conference Thursday morning at Vancouver International Airport, where Dziekanski died.
"I want to apologize for our role in this tragic death of your son, Robert Dziekanski," said Bass. "The RCMP has learned much from this tragic incident."
Cisowski confirmed she had accepted a financial settlement as compensation for her son's death and that she will drop the lawsuit she filed last year against the federal and provincial governments, the airport and the four RCMP officers who fired the stun gun at Dziekanski.
The officers said they used the Taser on Dziekanski because they felt threatened by him. The Polish immigrant, who did not speak English, had arrived in Canada on a long flight from Europe and became agitated after spending several more hours wandering around the immigration and baggage areas looking for his mother, who had come to meet him but was stranded in another part of the airport.
Bass said numerous changes had been made to the RCMP guidelines for the use of Tasers, and that he hoped the apology would begin the healing process for Dziekanski's mother, the RCMP and the public.
'I thank you, and I accept your apology.' —Zofia Cisowski
Sitting beside Bass, a tearful Cisowski also read a statement, saying "I thank you, and I accept your apology."
"It has been 2½ years since my son died," said Cisowski. "There was not a single day that I did not cry and analyze what could have been done to avoid this tragedy.
"I believe the settlement and the apologies given by the federal and provincial authorities will help begin the healing process and clear the path toward my future."
"It is good to see some changes in polices and procedures adopted by the government," she said, adding that she was looking forward to the final report from the Braidwood Commission, which is investigating the incident and the general use of conducted energy weapons by police.
Settlement not revealed
The details of the financial settlement are being kept confidential, but Cisowski said she was not angry about the final outcome or the time it took to reach the agreement.
"I have to close this chapter," she said, "I understand that these things take time."
Her lawyer, Walter Kostecky, said both sides agreed it was in Cisowski's best interests if the details of the settlement were not made public.
The RCMP has also donated $20,000 to set up a student scholarship in Kamloops, B.C., she said.
Cisowski also thanked the media for bringing the incident to light and the Polish community in Kamloops and Vancouver for their support.
When asked about her future plans, Cisowski said the past 2½ years have been very stressful.
"I am planning to rest and take care of myself," she said, "I think I will sleep better for today."
Cisowski said she felt the officers involved in the incident should face some professional consequences but was clear that she did not believe they should face criminal charges.
"I don't want … [them to be] charged criminally — absolutely not," she said in broken English.
Airport incident led to death
Bass stopped short of acknowledging that the RCMP was to blame for Dziekanski's death.
"Generally speaking, the RCMP could have done things better," he said.
"The RCMP, along with many other people, had a part to play in the sequence of events that went on for many hours on that night."
British Columbia's solicitor general and the Canada Border Services Agency also drafted letters expressing their regret for Dziekanski's death.
The RCMP's first apology for the incident was offered by RCMP deputy commissioner Bill Sweeney in May 2009 at a Senate committee hearing in Ottawa.
The RCMP's second-in-command said the force was "very sorry" for the death of Dziekanski, but he stopped short of admitting the Mounties made a mistake.