Friday, December 7, 2007

Imminent changes at YVR

Here is a summary of the changes on the way at Vancouver airport.

  • 24-hour customer care in the international arrivals area
  • hourly walk-throughs of the customs hall
  • round-the-clock medical response in the international terminal,
  • bigger, brighter signs in multiple languages
  • a messaging service from the customs hall to the public greeting area.

Total cost $1.3M CAD. On the whole I have to say, I am impressed by the speed of the response. I also appreciate that a lot of these steps are geared to customer care and there isn't a boondoggle that involves security cameras and scanners.

On a personal note - I recently caught a flight to the US via VYR. Though an experienced traveller, it was difficult for me to locate the US Customs gate and run the maze to get through. Also, having a parent with mobility issues I am sensitive to hallways that do not have moving sidewalks, escalators or wheelchair-inaccessible passages. I felt VYR has room for improvement in respect to accessibility and signage.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Investigation #1 - The CBSA review

The CBSA report was one of four probes, including a provincial public inquiry, into the death of Robert Dziekanski on Oct. 14.

Alain Jolicoeur reported the results of the CBSA investigation.

  • No one from the CBSA has spoken to Dziekanski's family since the death, or offered an apology.
  • No one will be disciplined, because the investigation found no wrongdoing.
  • 30 officers were on shift at the time, but no one could find Dziekanski when a family call came through asking for his whereabouts, because they assumed he would be in the secondary investigation area.
  • When the call came, no one checked to see that he had actually passed through primary investigation three hours earlier, even though that information should have been available.
The report acknowledged the following failures.

  • CBSA lost track of Dziekanski for more than six hours. According to a timeline issued by CBSA, Dziekanski arrived at 3:20 p.m., passed primary inspection at 4:09 p.m. and wasn't again identified until 10:40 p.m., when he tried to exit the CBSA hall.
  • (when he tried to exit the hall) a CBSA officer advised him he needed to go to secondary, and directed him toward that area (but) Mr. Dziekanski spoke little or no English and a Polish interpreter was not readily available.
  • A call from Dziekanski's family was made at 7 p.m. to CBSA, but they couldn't confirm that Dziekanski had made it through primary inspection.

I suppose the conclusion is the CBSA processes are busted if in spite of the individuals' best efforts a man died on their watch.

Here's the recommendations by the CBSA to remedy the system.

  • more cameras,
  • improved interpreter services
  • the option of more patrols and security checks within the CBSA secure area at Vancouver International Airport.
  • people referred for further examinations will report to the secondary examination area within a "reasonable amount of time,"
  • stepped-up patrols and better communication between travellers and those awaiting their arrival.

Monday, November 26, 2007

El fusilamiento / The execution

El fusilamiento / The execution, by David Yerga of the Heart Industry flickr log.
I think it is important for us to express how we feel about this incident in some fashion. If you have expressed yourself in art or in song, please send us the web-link in an email and we would be glad to highlight it. It is not possible for me to store the image or song, so please use a public forum such as flickr or picasa or myspace to share your art.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Protest rallies at noon on 11/24 in Toronto, Victoria and Vancouver

An anonymous tip
There is rally this Saturday in Toronto at Queens Park 12 pm. Any support is welcome.

Please note that we are expecting snow and colder temperatures in Toronto this weekend. Dress warm.

Lara Labelle posts
There is a rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery Saturday at noon and in Victoria at noon as well, at the Legislative Buildings.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Has your MP taken action yet?

Has your MP responded to your mail yet? Please send a reminder if she has not. Your voice matters.

The response from Peggy Nash, MP Parkdale-High Park, forwarded by a reader, is copied below [ed: Key sentences have been highlighted for emphasis].

Dear ____
Thank you for your letter regarding the death of Mr. Robert Dziekanski. I was equally disturbed and frustrated by this incident.

I have taken action on this issue. Please see my letter to the Prime Minister below calling for a public inquiry, an official apology., and an immediate review of taser use in Canada.

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

I am certain that you are aware of the recent tragic situation regarding Polish national Robert Dziekanski. On the morning of Oct. 14th at the international arrivals terminal of Vancouver International Airport, Mr. Dziekanski died after being struck with a taser by several RCMP officers.

I was shocked and saddened by the series of events that led to Mr. Dziekanski death. Many of my constituents have been equally alarmed and have shared their frustration through letters and phone calls.

I would urge the Government to launch a public inquiry into this matter and issue an apology to Mr. Dziekansk’s mother who has suffered a great loss.

Additionally, I believe the Government must take urgent action on the matter of tasers. There are currently no clear national standards for the use of tasers and little understanding of their impact. Until strict standards are in place and until we can know that tasers are safe, I would advocate for their use to be significantly restricted and for an immediate and thorough review of their use.

Lastly, one of the most disturbing elements of this tragic situation is the 10 hours that it took for Mr. Dziekanski to clear customs. A review of customs procedures is needed to identify how a person could have been delayed for such a long period of time and not received any assistance in the interim.

Thank you for your urgent attention to this matter.

Peggy Nash, MP
Parkdale-High Park

While I generally agree with MP Nash, it must be pointed out that Robert Dziekanski was not only a Polish national, he was also a Canadian.

In case you have not yet reached out, here is the list of the 304 members of the parliament. We have to keep reminding the MPs that this is important to Canada and Canadians.

Update on investigations underway

Here are the investigations underway. We will continue tracking these until there is closure.

  • Minister Stockwell Day has asked for an inquiry into the role of the RCMP.
  • A public inquiry into the use of tasers has been launched.
  • The BC coroner's office has launched an inquest into the affair.
  • Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP has launched an investigation.
  • The RCMP is doing an internal review on the use of tasers.
  • B.C.'s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team is doing an investigation into this tragedy into what actually transpired from the moment Robert landed in Canada.

There are pending questions into why Robert Dziekanski received no attention or guidance for a period of ten hours from when he was cleared by Immigration. Here's a list of actions that still need to happen.

  • We need the Vancouver airport authority to be held accountable for the lapses.
  • We need a review of the immigration processes at all points of entry to the country, understand where the hand-off between immigration and the airport authority takes place and who is accountable for what activity. This will identify the gaps in the system as they exist.

There is work to be done and we have to keep reminding the MPs that this is important to Canada and Canadians.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Our mothers have more spine than our uniformed finest
In the moments before police arrived, Sima Ashrafinia tried to calm down a visibly agitated Robert Dziekanski. She walked toward him, holding out her hand. She asked his name in four languages: English, Italian, Farsi and Turkish. She said, "No," when he attempted to throw furniture.
"All he needed was a translator ... He wasn't a threat to anybody," Ms. Ashrafinia, 50, said from her home in North Vancouver, a day after video footage of the incident was released.
Police felt differently. Within minutes of RCMP officers arriving at Vancouver's International Airport, Mr. Dziekanski was zapped by a taser and on the floor screaming and writhing in pain

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Funeral

Mike from Calgary shares
Robert's public funeral would be in Kamloops on Saturday at 11 am. I looked up the funeral home to send flowers and their details are below.

Kamloops Funeral Home

Their address is
285 Fortune Drive
Kamloops BC V2B 2H7

The news article also said that there is a fund set up at a Kamloops bank to help Zofia take her sons ashes back to Poland.

Sheri from Kamloops informs us
The Kamloops Daily News states there is a fund set up at Valley First Credit Union at 100-180 Seymour Street, Kamloops, BC, account #74666. It is called the Zofia Victim's Fund.

Thank you Sheri.
The bank can be reached at Phone: 250-374-4924 if you need any further detail.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Call for Justice: A Letter to the MP

The people to contact are your MP, the minister for Transport Canada - Lawrence Cannon and the minister for Public Safety - Stockwell Day . Their addresses are as below.

The Honourable Lawrence Cannon
Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
Tower C - 330 Sparks St.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
K1A 0N5
Phone: 613-991-0700
Fax: 613-995-0327

The Honourable Stockwell Day
Minister of Public Safety
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Phone: 613.995.1702
Fax: 613.995.1154

Please send an email to them today. Feel free to use the following email or adapt from it.

Dear Minister ____,
On October 14, Mr Robert Dziekanski, a first time visitor to Canada was killed at the airport. The cause of death is attributed to two taser shots fired at close proximity by RCMP officers present at the scene. From video footage of the event it is evident that Mr Dziekanski was no threat to either himself or to anyone else. On the other hand he seemed to be suffering a severe anxiety attack on account of his confinement at the airport for ten hours after passing through customs. In stead of offering medical attention or negotiating with Mr Dziekanski, the officers seemed to behave in a fashion that can only be called trigger-happy. Furthermore, these officers also attempted to cover up their incompetence by lying about the sequence of events leading up to Mr Dziekanski's death. The events have only been brought to light because of video footage of the event captured by a bystander.

I fear the incompetence of the RCMP officers stems from a systemic failure and request you to raise this matter in the parliament. Since this event also took place in an area secured by customs officers at a national airport I request an enquiry into the airport procedures in handling visitors to Canada.

The video footage of the event is publicly available. No conscientous Canadian can see that and not be appalled by the sequence of events. I trust you will share my concern and shame at having treated a fellow human in such a fashion. Canadians look to you to pursue this investigation to the fullest extent.

Yours very sincerely,


In case you send in your mail to the MP's, please take a moment to register your vote in the sidebar. Let it not be said that Canadians condone this and do not speak as one on how they feel on this issue.

Justice for Robert Dziekanski

On October 14, Robert Dziekanski, 40, died at Vancouver International Airport hours after he arrived in the country. He was on his way to Kamloops to live with his mother in the B.C. Interior.

An excerpt from article in the Toronto Star on Robert Dziekanski's final moments. Here's the video [warning: graphic visualization].

The bystander's camera clicks on early in the morning of Oct. 14 as the 40-year-old Dziekanski appears to be attempting to barricade himself inside a secure area of the airport's arrivals terminal.

No one yet knows why Dziekanski spent 10 hours in that secure area already, having arrived via Frankfurt earlier the day before.

Police were trying to find other people who had been on his flight as part of their investigation.

In the video, a tall and swarthy Dziekanski lines up desk chairs, a small wooden table and a clipboard along the doors separating the secure zone from the public waiting area.

The doors wave open and shut as he builds his barricade.

People gathered in the arrivals hall look on and Dziekanski glances furtively over his shoulder. His blue- and beige-striped shirt is open at the collar and appears wet with sweat.

He steps outside the doors, wielding the table in front of him, fear apparent in his eyes. He is muttering in Polish – the crowd thinks it's Russian – and some try to soothe him.

"There's nothing wrong, it's OK," one man says. A woman approaches, holds out her hand and beckons.

But he turns away and goes back inside, ignoring the woman now trying to speak with him through the glass.

Kostackeyj says of the segment of video that Cisowki has seen, it is this section that most breaks her heart.

"She saw her son, at the beginning, looking for help. She thought that maybe he was trying to write a message, he was looking for help and he was frightened," he said.

"He, in her mind, was trying to get help and he ended up dying as a result of seeking that help."

The woman eventually turned away from Dziekanski and chaos begins.

"He's freaking out," a bystander yells on the video as Dziekanski heaves a computer onto the floor.

The wooden table shatters against the glass. He picks up the computer a second time.

"Sir, sir, put it down," someone yells. Dziekanski stops.

Security approaches the doors, and Dziekanski, chest heaving, mops his face with the sleeve of his dirty white jacket.

He stands waiting, fear evident in his eyes, but calm.

"He's so scared," a woman can be heard saying. "Just leave him."

Security officers turn their backs and talk to each other, and in the background what sounds like airport officials discuss what to do next.

A Cathay Pacific flight with 300 people aboard is due shortly and someone can be heard suggesting customs officials hold passengers back.

A spokesman for the Vancouver Airport Authority said they wanted to review the video before commenting.

Four RCMP officers arrive, the camera panning from the frustrated looks on security guards' faces to the men in uniform striding through the hall.

Loud cries of what sound like "polizia," can be heard as the officers are told by someone that the man is behind the door and only speaks Russian.

They vault over a railing and walk Dziekanski behind the glass doors. He gestures at his luggage as they appear to be talking to him.

He throws up his hands in the air and walks away.

The officers follow, apparently indicating he should put his hands on the counter of an information desk behind the glass.

Dziekanski stands with his back to the counter and the officers fan around him.

Crack – the sound of the 50,000 volts of electricity zapping from an officer's gun can be heard.

Dziekanski winces and starts screaming, his hand waving a stapler madly in the air.

He grabs at his chest and lunges through a doorway, howling.

Crack – a second shot, electricity sizzles, and Dziekanski writhes on the ground, spinning in circles.

Police surround him again, the bystanders gasp in amazement. A voice can be heard yelling "hit him again, hit him again."

The four officers clamber on top of him, restraining his arms, his head.

Dziekanski twitches as they fight to restrain him.

Finally, he is still.

The video is hard to watch. It has four brawny men going up to a clearly petrified man who's suffering an anxiety attack. He even seems to welcome them by saying Polizei, Polizei - perhaps mistakenly believing that they are coming to his help. They zap him twice and sit on his neck. The use of the force was uncalled for. Keeping a disturbed man penned in a secure area in the airport for ten hours is hard to explain. We need an inquiry into these.

They tried to bury the truth

Here's Paul Pritchard's account of the events and his fight to get back his video tape from the RCMP. The RCMP originally didnt want to release the tape fearing it would taint the proceedings(!).

While others in the waiting area called for security, it took some 25 to 30 minutes before security and police arrived, recalled Pritchard.

But upon their arrival, it was clear that the police had decided to use a Taser gun before they even got near Dziekanski, said Pritchard.

"I heard 'Can I or should I Taser him?' before they even got to Mr. Dziekanski," says Pritchard. "Right away they Tasered him."

Three police officers then struggled to handcuff Dziekanski, who by now was on the floor. Dziekanski was unconscious about a minute later, said Pritchard.

Police immediately called "Code Red" and medics arrived about five to eight minutes later - a time period that Pritchard believes was too long.

Pritchard said that in the 25 minutes prior to security and RCMP officers arriving on scene, at least five people - including women - went up to Dziekanski to offer help.

Although he was clearly distressed and behaving strangely "none of us felt threatened at any time. We weren't scared, women were going right up to him," said Pritchard.

Pritchard's account is in stark contrast to that given by the RCMP, who said Dziekanski had been behaving violently and erratically in the international arrivals area and they were unable to calm him.