Mr. Day’s Response

Stockwell Day — a rather unusual Canadian political figure for his persistence — has responded to the complaints of citizens about the death of Robert Dziekanski after the fury of British Columbia and broader Canadian citizens:

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said in a statement last night that he has asked Paul Kennedy, the Commissioner for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, to review the police force’s policies for using the devices – and assess whether its members live up to those standards.

The independent review is yet another added to a growing list of inquiries and reviews sparked by the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish man who spent 10 hours at the Vancouver airport before being tasered by police. There is already an internal RCMP review under way.

With the public outcry growing, rather than abating, the provincial government in British Columbia announced its own inquiry this week and accused federal agencies including the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency of failing to provide answers. In the Commons, Mr. Day has faced repeated demands for the federal government to provide answers.

Mr. Day’s decision to ask Mr. Kennedy to review the RCMP’s taser use will effectively expand a probe that the arm’s-length ombudsman launched Nov. 8 into the RCMP’s actions in the Dziekanski case.

Mr. Kennedy had already said that he would assess the force’s policies for using tasers, or conducted energy devices, and whether the four officers involved in the incident with Mr. Dziekanski complied with those protocols. But Mr. Day’s request means he has now been asked to add an RCMP-wide assessment of whether the force is complying with its protocols.

Though it’s good to see the Public Safety Minister responding to the issue, it’s kind of a pity that it has to first come to a situation where the government has no choice but to respond. This kind of incident clearly isn’t good for the public… waiting for them to respond with rage is a weak way of putting off the issue, and — if successful — would obviously cause more harm than good.

It’ll be a fine day when we see our governments jumping to confront internal issues as quickly as they confront external risks.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephen
    Nov 22, 2007 @ 11:55:31

    Actually, I think Canada has a pretty good record of responding to tragedies of this sort. It isn’t in the national psyche to justify ourselves, or defend people just because they’re fellow countrymen.

    It’s a trivial example, but remember the Ben Johnson inquiry? The public angst because one of our Olympic athletes had cheated — I don’t know whether any other country on earth would have engaged in the hand-wringing that we saw from Canadians over Johnson.

    Back to the death by taser —
    The politicians are acting like politicians. They didn’t start an inquiry out of remorse for Mr. Dziekanski; they waited until it became apparent that there would be political fallout if they weren’t seen to act.

    So now both the province and the feds have jumped on the bandwagon. You might look at that and conclude, the system works.


  2. 49erDweet
    Nov 23, 2007 @ 16:19:59

    Stephen is right – again. CA politicians are like any other. They are reacting in a predictable manner to a messy situation. Not much more could be asked until more facts are known.

    If this sad event had occurred at any major airport in the US, however, some of our esteemed and lovable “pols” would have already publicly crucified the current administration in the press for creating an environment that permitted such an incident to take place. IMHO. So count your northern blessings that this is probably at least two weeks away from taking place in your neck of the woods.



  3. nebcanuck
    Nov 23, 2007 @ 17:26:20

    Stephen, 49er:

    You are both right that they’re simply acting according to the system, of course! And I apologize for the suggestion that I was attempting to say that somehow the system’s a failure. I agree that the response was pretty fast, and as far as quality goes, it was pretty good, too. They seem to have thought along the same lines as I was — that the problem is the tazers and the current way they are being used, as much or more than the police themselves.

    However, being a bit of an idealist (I am in political studies, after all! 😉 ), I still maintain that it would be wonderful to see common interest being more of a motivator than elections. Stephen, you are absolutely correct when you say that the response is exactly what we would expect from politicians, because taking action any quicker would have been to go out on a limb in assuming that the public would appreciate the decision. But, as I stated in a recent essay, it’s kind of a pity that the people can’t assume the politicians are acting in their favour, so much as acting to remain in power.

    All of which boils down to a proposition that will likely never be. Still, optimism is important in politics, by me. This idea that we should accept humans as self-serving all the time gets me depressed! 😛


  4. Bill Arends
    Nov 24, 2007 @ 02:03:05

    The other day at work we were discussing the fact that industry perceives the government as reactive rather than legislatively proactive. This feeds into your point that it has to “first come to a situation where the government has no choice but to respond.”

    In reality we tend to legislate this way (even on the regulations around acceptable force) for two reasons.

    1. If we regulate proactively we are perceived as creating a so called “Nanny State.”

    2. The shear volume of items that require regulation requires we work as fast as we can from the top down, or from the most urgent to the least.

    Is it that in reacting quickly during a crisis we are making up for the short comings in legislation or are simply dealing quickly with the most urgent of situations.

    That said personally I think we need to stop thinking of Tasers as non-leathal weapons.

    49erdweet the same situation is happening in the US. CNN has an article on the abusive use of tasers in the US and a very disturbing case where a Utah trooper tased a man (albeit an obnoxious one) during a SPEEDING ticket pull over.

    Are our police getting too reliant on the easy route? would it not be better to risk injury in forcing an unarmed man to the ground than risk killing a man simply because he refused to accept a speeding ticket.

    That said I think the Utah trooper had more right to tase the speeder he was doing something wrong when tased. From the video it looks like Robert Dziekanski had been subdued and the RCMP were using the Taser as a punishment.


  5. 49erDweet
    Nov 24, 2007 @ 14:29:41

    Bill, I’m aware of the Utah incident, as well as a couple of local ones in my own area the past couple of years, all ending in fatalities to “out-of-control” law-breakers. Tasers can be “lethal” under some circumstances – obviously – but what those situations precisely are is still not well studied, imho, and should give pause to any officer faced with “control” situations.

    That said, Bill, no officer anywhere is paid to single-handedly out-wrestle a berserk desperado. Nor should they be. It is simply too dangerous. Instead, it had been me out there on the roadway in Utah I would be tempted to keep the fellow under cover by force of arms until backup officers had time to arrive, or if he attempted to drive away used my shotgun to blast away one of his rear tires. Even though my superiors would probably not have approved. But to me damaging his transportation would have been the better option if it could have spared his health or life.

    About your “proactive” comments, Bill, you make a sound point. And the problem you blokes in administration face is how to react without OVERreacting – which is what seemingly occurs most often. Imho.

    Nebcanuck, keep being an optimist. The future depends on it.



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