Monday, March 30, 2009

The Braidwood Chronicles: mudslingers meet their match

The illustration here is of Canadian protesters rallying for Robert Dziekanski in November, 2007. At the same time, Polish citizens, learning of his death at the hands of four RCMP officers, were equally outraged, and some let the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw know it. One sent an email suggesting that the Vancouver authorities, in preparation for the 2010 Olympics, might want to stock up on "body bags and interpreters." Canadian diplomats and their families were urged to lie low for a while.

Some of those citizens, friends and neighbours of Dziekanski, are presently testifying before the Braidwood Inquiry by videolink. Readers will remember that the RCMP sent officers to Poland on a mission last April to dig up any dirt they could find on their victim, causing considerable offence in his home town.

Lawyers for two of the officers involved tried it again today, but they ran into one Iwona Kowaska, who simply wasn't having any. She had lived in the same apartment building as Dziekanski in his home town of Gliwice, and had known him socially for more than twenty years. She testified that he had never seen him drunk, contrary to RCMP and Crown innuendo about his alleged alcoholism. He was a normal, friendly man, eager to join his mother for a new life in Canada, but anxious about his upcoming trip: he hadn't slept for two days before he left.

The RCMP lawyers, who did not divulge to her whom they were representing, questioned her closely about his habits, disposition and medical record. In response to their suggestions that he was an alcoholic who was prone to violence she reacted with anger. She accused them of trying to blacken his name, and stated flatly that she would answer no more questions from them if they persisted. And when the lawyer for Constable Kwesi Millington attempted to bring up an alleged 23-year-old robbery conviction in Poland, he was called to order by the chairman, Thomas Braidwood.

Incidentally, there's a lengthy and very good run-down of the proceedings here, in Q & A format, by CBC reporter Curt Petrovich. (He can be asked more questions here, and, if you have the stomach for it, there is a daily live broadcast of the Braidwood Inquiry here.) This is what Petrovich has to say about the allegation that Dziekanski had a criminal conviction:

Q| If Mr. Dziekanski had no criminal record, how did he do a five year term in a Polish prison for robbery?

Peter O'Neil, CanWest Europe Correspondent, CanWest News Service
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2007
GLIWICE, Poland - Robert Dziekanski dreamed of coming to B.C. to escape a troubled life in this gritty industrial city, including a tumultuous common-law relationship and a five-year jail term for robbery when he was a teenager, say two of his closest friends.

Is Peter O'Neil credible?

A| All I can tell you is that there is nothing in the RCMP's dossier to the effect that Robert Dziekanski spent any time in custody for any crime as you describe. Considering investigators went to Poland I would be surprised if a detail like a criminal record escaped their scrutiny in this matter. As I've said before Canadian immigration officials also verified Mr. Dziekanski's admissibility. While I am told anecdotally that he was involved in some event as a juvenile I have to wonder what difference that would make anyway. If what you read is true it happened 20 years before his death. The officers who approached him had zero information about who Mr. Dziekanski was let alone any background. And it wasn't until after some 30 hours of rather uneventful dealings with Mr Dziekanski that anyone reported a problem. [emphasis added]

But in spite of all the fetid water that has passed under the bridge by now, the cops, through their lawyers, are still trying to brazen it out, ever more desperately. As Petrovich says, even if there had been a conviction, the connection between it and his death at the hands of RCMP officers more than two decades later must, at least for any reasonable person, appear to be a tenuous one indeed.

As tenuous, in fact, as the connection between the officers' testimony at the Braidwood Inquiry and the Pritchard video.

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