Robert Dziekanski: The case that changed Canadian Policing

Posted: October 1, 2011 by gcheema in Robert Dziekanski
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Robert Dziekanski came to Canada from Poland to start a better life, a new life. He wanted to join his mother, Zofia Cisowski, who was already settled in Kamploops.  However, before Mr. Dzienkanski had the chance to fulfil his dream, his life was tragically taken away. Ironically, it was not a “murderer” that took his life; it was the police. Dzienkanski’s death captivated the nation against police brutality, and the use of Tasers. Broader themes like police investigating police, misconduct, and police cover-up were hotly debated.

On October 13, 2007, at 3:15pm Dzienkanski arrived at Vancouver International Airport (YVR); his flight had been delayed by two hours. He had made plans to meet with his mother at the baggage claim. Sadly, that plan never came to fruition. Since Dzienkanski spoke no English, he needed help in filling out an umpteen amount of forms. After he had completed the formalities, his whereabouts remained unclear, however.  He was seen around the baggage carrousels at several points acting irrationally. Due to the language barrier Dziekanski was forced to wait in the immigration area for seven hours. When he decided to leave, he was re-directed to secondary immigration because his visa had not been approved. After spending some time in the secondary immigration area, he became visibly agitated and distraught. The staff was unable to calm him down due to the language barrier; the RCMP was called to the scene soon after. Four RCMP officers arrived shortly thereafter and took charge of the scene. The police officers tried to communicate with Dzienkanski in a foreign language, he could not understand.  The officers had only been on scene for 25 seconds, when, the supervisor, Corporal Benjamin Robinson ordered the use of the Taser. The RCMP alleged that the Taser was deployed because Dzienkanski tried to attack one of the officers with a stapler; Dzienkanski was Tasered five times, and fell to the ground. Shortly thereafter, he began to convulse on the ground. At no time did the officers render first-aid or call Emergency Health Services (EHS). Finally, when EHS arrived on scene 15 minutes later, Dzienkanski was pronounced dead on arrival. The RCMP claimed proper protocol had been followed, however. A video shot by one of the witnesses poked holes into the RCMP’s theory; much to the RCMPs disapproval. This video was only released after a court order. It was this video that captivated the entire nation against the RCMP.

For those who are not familiar with this case, a quick search of “Robert Dzienkanski” on Google yields 142,000 results.  The first link takes you to Wikipedia, which breaks down the case; it provides details about the day in question. This is followed by a few links to CBC, which extensively covered the incident. A link of the video can also be found, for those interested seeing the last, horrific, moments of Dzienkanski’s life. Surprisingly, there is a website called “,” which demands exactly what the name implies. This website has a host of information about the RCMP’s mishandling of this case. A copy of the Braidwood Enquiry can also be found. This public Enquiry was set up by the government to find out what happened that unfaithful day, and are Taser safe to use on humans. Although Tasers have saved countless lives, there is not a single article on this issue.

When this incident first occurred, it was the source of everyday news. However, since then this story has started to fade away. The most recent article found on Google on this issue is over two years old. As the old saying goes, “time heals all wounds,” seems like this “black eye” on policing has slowly started to fade away.






  1. Mike Larsen says:

    An interesting introduction to the topic!

    Two qustions for you:

    First, how did the death of Mr. Dziekanski change Canadian policing? What were the concrete changes that followed?

    Second, while there is no doubt that the graphic video of Mr. Dziekanski’s death caused a public outcry, can we say that it ‘captivated the entire nation against the RCMP’? This raises the broader question: does expressing concern about apparent police wrongdoing and demanding accountability constitute being ‘against the police’?

  2. dhaliwal23 says:

    No, it is reasonable to demand accountability from the police when they have engaged in wrongdoing afterall we expect that from our politicians, and doing so does not constitute being ‘against the police’ for like the politicians the police represents the public too. They are civil servants and their actions reflect us all as a society. They are expected to uphold the law, especially when it applies to them, otherwise it is just hypocritical whereby the citizens in the country are punished for breaking it but not the people entrusted to enforce it.

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