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Canada Border Services Announces Taser-Related Changes At Airport

They are small steps and ones that might have saved a life had they been taken before. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has confirmed it will be making changes to the way it handles foreign passengers at Vancouver International Airport, after the death of a Polish man there made world headlines earlier this month.

Robert Dziekanski was shocked with a Taser at the terminal last October 14th, after an incident involving the RCMP. The non-English speaking traveller was kept waiting for 10 hours at a secure section of the busy hub, as he tried to meet his mother. When he became agitated after so long without word, authorities were called. Without being able to communicate with them, RCMP officers stunned Dziekanski and he later died.

A video of the incident ( available here) soon surfaced and forced calls for immediate changes and a full explanation, as well as a call for banning the stun-like devices.

An internal investigation will now result in the CBSA insuring it has a full list of people who speak languages other than English and French, and can assist those who can’t tell officials what’s wrong. It’s not clear why an interpreter wasn’t available in October, but cops can be heard on the tape telling each other he’s speaking Russian – which only furthered the confusion.

More cameras are being installed to ensure those in charge can observe trouble brewing and defuse it before it gets out of hand. And there could be more security and a “second” customs screening area, which will be rolled out in a far more timely manner.

Since Dziekanski’s death, two more potential fatalities involving Tasers have surfaced, including another in Vancouver over the weekend. Thirty-six-year-old Robert Knipstorm died Saturday after being Tasered and pepper sprayed three days earlier. An inquiry is under way into the reasons for his sudden demise. And a Dartmouth, Nova Scotia man died last Thursday, not long after being hit by one of the weapons.

Several official probes are underway in connection with Dziekanski’s death. A public inquiry is already ongoing in B.C., as well as a review by the RCMP watchdog and an internal RCMP investigation.

But cops contend Tasers may not be the reason behind the fatalities, noting the weapons are frequently used and are effective at providing what’s supposed to be non-lethal force to subdue an aggressive suspect.

A translator has revealed that Dziekanski was welcoming the RCMP when they came upon him, hoping they would finally be able to give him some answers.