Vancouver, B.C. (Canadian Press) - The RCMP won’t fully participate in a public inquiry into the death of a man at the Vancouver airport after he was shocked by RCMP Tasers if the officers involved could still face charges, a spokesman for the Mounties said Thursday.
The inquiry into Robert Dziekanski’s death at the Vancouver airport last year is scheduled to begin next month in Vancouver, and several groups have applied for standing.
However, the RCMP isn’t among them.
The national police force was given an extension until Friday to apply, but Staff Sgt. Tim Shields said the force can’t make that decision until it knows whether any of the four officers who confronted Dziekanski at the airport last October will face criminal charges.
“If they are going to be laying charges, then we will not be able to forward that complete report to Crown counsel package to the Braidwood inquiry, because it would jeopardize an upcoming criminal trial,” said Shields.
Shields said the RCMP will still “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.
The RCMP has faced considerable scrutiny during the past year over its use of Tasers, 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, were “trying to avoid full participation.”
But Shields insisted the RCMP wants to be as open as possible.
“We want the public to know absolutely everything that happened on that tragic day,” said Shields.
“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.”
When the inquiry was announced last November, Gary Bass, the RCMP’s deputy commissioner for the Pacific Region, pledged that RCMP would “fully participate in any government-directed review.”
Dziekanski’s death made headlines around the world and fuelled fierce public outrage after a video recorded by a witness at the airport was released.
The incident sparked a dozen investigations, including a review by the Ontario Provincial Police, the B.C. Coroner’s office, the RCMP Public Complaints Commission and a House of Commons committee.
A report released last month said the RCMP didn’t get enough input from medical experts about the impact of stun guns on people, and the head of the force’s complaints commission, Paul Kennedy, has called for more restraint by police when they use the weapon.
Six weeks have been set aside for the inquiry, which is expected to look at events leading up to Dziekanski’s trip from Poland to Vancouver, up to and including his death.
Braidwood has already heard from dozens of people in the first phase of his inquiry, looking generally into police use of the 50,000-volt weapons. A report from that phase is due later this year.