Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Braidwood Chronicles: the Chairman puts his foot down

Only one witness testified today: Robert Dylski, who drove Robert Dziekanski to the airport to take his ill-fated trip to Canada. The other witness, scheduled to testify today, was called away because her father had had a stroke. The Inquiry is now effectively adjourned until April 14: there will, however, be a brief meeting at 2:30pm BC time today to consider a motion from Kwesi Millington's lawyer, Ravi Hira, to get access to more records pertaining to Dziekanski's past.

The Globe and Mail summed up this entire distasteful exercise this morning: it's hard to improve on the editorialist's words. But up to now the Chairman of the inquiry, Thomas Braidwood, has been content to let this travesty continue.

Today, he obviously had had enough.

Dylski testified that Dziekanski was nervous about leaving the land of his birth for a new life in Canada. At a gathering before he was driven to the airport, he might even have thrown up--he also clutched a radiator for maybe 20 minutes before standing up and moving away. Dziekanski, who had canceled a previous trip to Canada, telephoned his mother, and had to be persuaded to take what all of us, at least those of us with empathy, can recognize as a major turning-point in his life, a leap of faith.

Once in the car to the airport, said the witness, Dziekanski was restored to calm. At the airport he even had a soft drink. RCMP lawyers hammered away, but the witness remained composed.

Was he a smoker? Well, averred Dylski, he didn't have a lot of money, so he smoked when he could afford to. What about alcohol? Why, yes: Dylski had witnessed him drinking vodka--four times over a period of eight years. He couldn't say what Dziekanski's drinking habits were when he was out of his sight.

The lawyer for Constable William Bentley pounded away. Was Dziekanski afraid of moving to another country? Yes. Has he cancelled an earlier trip? Yes, but the witness didn't know why. (At this point, the lawyer didn't even have the grace to pronounce the dead man's name correctly.) Was Dziekanski "hysterical" before he departed?

He wasn't getting anywhere, and asked the witness if it wasn't true that he didn't actually know Dziekanski all that well. Yes. Had he ever seen Dziekanski act in the manner that the video showed him acting at the Vancouver Airport? No.

Then it was Ravi Hira's turn: he acts for Constable Kwesi Millington. He started banging away again at the alcohol issue. Then he decided to ask about alleged police visits to Dziekanski's home in Poland.

But that was too much for Thomas Braidwood. He called Hira sharply to order, and told him the question wasn't relevant. Hira insisted on reading into the record previous dialogue with the witness. In Poland, he had been questioned by a Polish prosecutor, in the presence of RCMP officials. His testimony on this subject proved to be classic hearsay.

We may learn later today of Braidwood's response to Hira's motion to access certain records pertaining to Dziekanski's past. I'll provide an update if and when it becomes available.

In the meantime, let me observe once more that it would be salutary if we could get similar access to the records and past behaviour of the four RCMP officers who killed him. As it is, only the victim has been on trial this week.

UPDATE: (April 5) Justice Braidwood denied Ravi Hira's motion, without even hearing counter-arguments.

Transcripts of the hearings from January to March 26 are now available.

The Inquiry resumes in a few days, with the following schedule:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Peter Dore (YVR)

Greg Sambrook (YVR)

Cpl. Nycki Basra (RCMP)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cst. Hoivik (RCMP)

Sgt. Christianssen (RCMP)

Officer Lemaitre (RCMP)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Officer Carr (RCMP)

Adam Chapin (Canadian Border Services Agency (recall))

Craig Baltzer (Delta Police Department)

No comments: