RCMP involvement in Taser inquiry hinges on possibility of charges
The RCMP won't fully participate in a public inquiry into the death of a Polish immigrant who died shortly after he was jolted with a police Taser at the Vancouver airport if the officers involved could still face charges, a RCMP spokesman said Thursday.
The second phase of the inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death on Oct. 14, 2007, is scheduled to begin next month in Vancouver and several groups have applied for standing.
The RCMP, who have not submitted an application, were given an extension until Friday.
But Sgt. Tim Shields said the force can't make that decision until it knows whether any of the four officers who confronted Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport will face criminal charges.
'We want the public to know absolutely everything that happened on that tragic day.'— RCMP Sgt. Tim Shields
"If they are going to be laying charges, then we will not be able to forward that complete report to Crown counsel …because it would jeopardize an upcoming criminal trial," Shields said.
He said the RCMP would "participate in whatever way we can" even if charges are laid, but he wouldn't elaborate. He said the Mounties are acting on the advice of B.C.'s deputy attorney general.
Standing at the inquiry would allow the force to have its own lawyer present and participating.
It's not clear when the Crown will announce a decision on charges. The inquiry is set to begin Oct. 20.
B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal appointed retired Appeal Court justice Thomas Braidwood in February to head a two-phase inquiry. This first phase focused on the use of stun guns as well as deaths and injuries associated with the weapon. Braidwood is expected to finish his report in November.
Dziekanski, who spoke limited English, had wandered the airport for hours and became agitated after a series of communications breakdowns kept him a secure area controlled by the Canada Border Services Agency.
The RCMP have faced considerable scrutiny during the past year over its use of stun guns, both in Dziekanski's death and in other cases.
Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer representing Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, said both the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency, which also came into contact with Dziekanski that day and didn't apply for standing, are "trying to avoid full participation."
But Shields insisted the Mounties want to be as open as possible.
"We want the public to know absolutely everything that happened on that tragic day," Shields said.
"In fact, we look forward to the inquiry so that the details that we have already learned and that we have garnered from this very detailed investigation can be made public."