British Columbia

Final chapter in Braidwood inquiry begins in Vancouver

More than a year after it first began, final submissions begin Friday at the Braidwood inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died after being jolted several times with a stun gun by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.
Clockwise from top left, Const. Gerry Rundel, Const. Bill Bentley, Cpl. Monty Robinson and Const. Kwesi Millington were not charged in the death of Robert Dziekanski. (CBC)

More than a year after it first began, the Braidwood inquiry will hear final submissions Friday on the death of Robert Dziekanski — the Polish immigrant who died after being jolted several times with a stun gun by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.

The inquiry was almost derailed when the four officers launched a court challenge questioning commissioner Thomas Braidwood's authority to find them guilty of misconduct, but their case was rejected in B.C. Supreme Court earlier this week.

Inquiry counsel Art Vertlieb said he's relieved the challenge, which questioned whether a provincial inquiry has jurisdiction over federal officers, was dismissed.

"There's many people who have been part of this process for months, and they want this resolved," he said. "It's stressful. It's on people's minds."

Blatant misconduct by officers, says lawyer

Braidwood, the retired justice leading the inquiry, has warned the officers that in preparing his final report, he will take into account allegations made during the inquiry that the officers acted improperly when they confronted Dziekanski and then lied to justify what happened.

That doesn't necessarily mean he will agree with those allegations, but in order to leave open the possibility of making a finding of misconduct, he was required to notify the officers in advance.

Robert Dziekanski died on Oct. 14, 2007, shortly after he was jolted several times with a police Taser. (Paul Pritchard)

Don Rosenbloom, representing the Republic of Poland, said he hopes Braidwood concludes that the descriptions of improper conduct are more than just allegations.

"Anybody sitting for five months in that inquiry surely understood that there was blatant misconduct by these officers," Rosenbloom said.

Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer representing Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, will present his final submission first, followed by lawyers for the federal government.

Then, lawyers for the four officers involved will have their say.

Ravi Hira, the lawyer for Const. Kwesi Millington, the officer who pulled the trigger of the Taser, said the inquiry has strayed from its mandate.

"It certainly seemed that commission counsel focused and narrowed this inquiry unnecessarily on the officers," he said.

Hira said the officers were just following their training.

The submissions will run through to next week. Once final submissions are given, Braidwood will prepare his report, which is expected in the fall.

With files from The Canadian Press