Immigration officials at Vancouver International Airport gave Robert Dziekanski's mother the runaround and told her she “might as well go home” while she waited all day for her son who was lost in customs and later died after being tasered by police.
Family friend Richard Hutchinson testified at a public inquiry this morning that he drove Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, to the airport on October 13, 2007 to pick up her son because “she needed help to communicate at the airport because her English wasn't 100 percent.” Airport staff and immigration officials showed a lack of interest in them and told them to “go home.”
“Disregarded, not important, that's the attitude I was getting from the people at the airport,” said Hutchinson.
Hutchison told the inquest that they inquired about Dziekanski multiple times at two airport information booths but were repeatedly told that nothing could be done and that they would have to continue waiting at the international arrivals area. They also told officials Dziekanski could not speak English, had no experience traveling, and had mistakenly been told to meet his mother at the baggage carousel, which is inside the secured area. Yet, no one was willing to look for Dziekaski who was still inside the customs hall.
“I basically told [the airport official that] we're looking for this Polish guy, he's 38 years old, his mother's here, he can't speak English, we're not finding him. How can we find out even if he's on the plane? She said: You can't. You would need an RCMP search warrant to find out even if he was on the plane,” testified Hutchinson.
He then tried contacting a Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) agent, but said the agent did not want any information and he was told that there was “no landed immigrant from Poland here.”
“She told me that I had waited too long, that he couldn't possibly have taken that long to get through airport security. That he's not there,” testified Hutchinson. “I felt that he wasn't there,”
Cisowski and Hutchinson arrived at the airport early in the afternoon and waited until 10 p.m. before driving back to Kamloops believing that Dziekanski had missed his flight.
Meanwhile, Dziekanski was inside the secured customs hall between 3:15 p.m. and 12:15 a.m. His whereabouts for most of that time still remain unclear. When he finally cleared customs, he was seen exhibiting violent behavior, which included throwing a computer and a small table on the ground.
Police arrived on the scene and tasered Dziekanski repeatedly in the process of apprehending him.
Dziekanski died shortly thereafter, raising questions about the safety of tasers and police procedures regarding the use of such weapons.
Today's testimony was heard at the Braidwood Inquiry, which was setup by the provincial government to examine the safety of Tasers and the circumstances under which Mr. Dziekanski died.
The public inquiry is headed by the Honourable Thomas R. Braidwood, QC, a retired Court of Appeal of British Columbia and the Yukon Territories justice. The inquiry completed its first phase, examining the safety of conducted energy weapons, last May. The second stage, examining the death of Robert Dziekanski, began last Monday.
Related: Audio: Braidwood Inquiry
Further Reading: Robert Dziekanski Taser Incident Links