British Columbia

Thomas Braidwood, commissioner of inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death, dies aged 89

Thomas Braidwood, the commissioner of the public inquiry into the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport, has died.

'He told me he had a good life,' said Wally Oppal, friend of renowned QC

Justice Thomas Braidwood, left, discusses his final report into the death of Robert Dziekanski. At the June 2010 hearing in Vancouver, Braidwood said shameful conduct by Mounties led to the death of the Polish immigrant at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007. (Andy Clark/Reuters)

Thomas Braidwood, the commissioner of the public inquiry into the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport, has died. 

Braidwood, a former B.C. Appeal Court justice, was commissioned by the B.C. government to investigate the actions of four RCMP officers who confronted and subdued Dziekanski at the airport on Oct. 14, 2007.

Dziekanski died after he was stunned multiple times with a Taser. His death was captured on amateur video, which fuelled public anger and prompted the government to order the public inquiry.

Braidwood, 89, died Saturday at his home in West Vancouver. He had been fighting cancer.

Former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal said he learned of his friend's diagnosis about a month ago, and the two had talked several times before his death.

"In one of our last conversations he told me he had a good life and he was lucky to do some good things," said Oppal. 

RCMP officers approach Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in this image taken from amateur video of the Polish immigrant's last minutes. The video shows Dziekanski alternating between fear and calm as he stands in the international arrivals terminal on Oct. 14, 2007. (The Canadian Press)

Braidwood grew up in Burnaby, B.C., and was called to the bar in 1957, according to a profile in The Advocate, a magazine published by the Vancouver Bar Association. He gained much of his experience under Vancouver lawyer Angelo Branca, who the magazine described as B.C.'s leading criminal counsel at the time. He was made Queen's Counsel in 1971.

Braidwood later became a founding partner in the law firm of Braidwood, Nuttall & MacKenzie, before he was appointed to the B.C. Supreme Court in 1990 and then the B.C. Court of Appeal in 1996. He retired at the end of 2006 but remained active in the field of arbitration.

In February 2008, Braidwood was appointed to conduct two separate inquiries relating to Dziekanski's death.

The first inquiry report, entitled Restoring Public Confidence: Restricting the Use of Conducted Energy Weapons in British Columbia and released on July 23, 2009, included recommendations for the appropriate use of such weapons, including training and re-training. 

The second inquiry report, titled Why? The Robert Dziekanski Tragedy, was released in May 2010. It concluded the RCMP were not justified in using a Taser against Dziekanski and that the officers later deliberately misrepresented their actions to investigators.

Zofia Cisowski, Robert Dziekanski's mother, died five months ago in Poland at the age of 73. She's pictured here holding a photograph of her son. (Kiran Dhillon / CBC)

"Despite their training, the officers approached the incident as though responding to a bar-room brawl and failed to shift gears when they realized that they were dealing with an obviously distraught traveller," said Braidwood, following the release of his report.

During the inquiry, four officers gave explanations as to why their versions of events were different from the amateur video of the incident.

All four officers were charged with perjury, but only two of them, Monty Robinson and Kwesi Millington, were convicted. Bill Bentley and Gerry Rundel were found not guilty of perjury.

RCMP officers Monty Robinson, left, and Kwesi Millington were convicted of perjury following a public inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski. (The Canadian Press)

Oppal said Braidwood was very lucid during their chats, and the two shared many laughs in his final days, reminiscing about the trials they were involved in.

"We had defended two murder cases together. Tom was a total pro. He related to juries extremely well. He mentored so many young lawyers," said Oppal.

"He was truly a class individual."

Braidwood was a father of three and lost his first wife to cancer in 2001, according to The Advocate. He later remarried.

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