Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Whitewash

The Canada Border Services Agency has released its report on the Dziekanski case. I'm really surprised that after 6 weeks, this what they came up with. There are no individuals named, even though 6 employees were interviewed for the report.

Considering that the report is supposed to be ABOUT Robert Dziekanski and how CBSA treated him, they avoid discussing him for about half the report. I did a word count on the document: 1263 words. Only 727 of them are devoted to Mr. Dziekanski. CBSA veers off whenever possible into generalities, such as the following:
It appears that he remained in the CBSA hall between the time of his arrival and his report to customs secondary. There are many reasons why passengers may not leave the CBSA hall immediately after their arrival at YVR. These include:

Waiting for delayed luggage that may be arriving on a subsequent flight.
Waiting for family members or friends who have been referred to immigration for further processing
Waiting for passengers on subsequent flights.
Waiting to have documents faxed or information confirmed from overseas embassies and/or offices.
Or, as in this case, because they're confused, can't ask for help, and are unimportant enough to ignore.
Further footage shows that for unknown reasons, Mr. Dziekanski did not enter the immigration area but proceeded to the carousel/baggage area. This area is the approximate size of two football fields. It may be filled with hundreds of people at any given time. Approximately 4,000 people went through this area during the time Mr. Dziekanski was there.
Well, let's see. Four thousand people over 10 hours. That works out to about 400 people per hour - maybe 1.5 planeloads. And knowing the way airports work, there are times when lots of planes take off, alternating with times when planes land. So at some point, there might have been next to no one in those two football fields. At no point was the place thronged with a huge crowd of 4,000 people, among whom no one could be expected to spot the figure of Mr. Dziekanski, which is the impression they are trying to create by throwing out that awe-inspiring number.

The sad story of Robert Dziekanski just sort of drops off a cliff before the end.
Having completed the secondary immigration processing, Mr. Dziekanski was told that he was free to leave. He remained in the area and sat on one of the chairs for approximately 30 minutes. He was subsequently approached by a CBSA officer who confirmed that he was free to go and escorted him to the exit.
Gee, what happened then? CBSA suddenly gets very busy with recommendations about interpreters and security cameras, and you have to go elsewhere to learn the end of this story.

The Vancouver Sun's report gives more information, which is omitted from the official report. Specifically, the way Dziekanski's mother and stepfather were brushed off when they made inquiries about their son. After a cursory glance around, they were told he wasn't there, and then sent back home - to Kamloops. This isn't a suburb of Vancouver, by the way. It's almost 4 hours away. When the mother called the airport at 2:00AM, CBSA bungled again, and told her Dziekanski was gone. I guess that's not exactly a lie - he was dead.

I haven't been able to open any of the videos of the press conferences yesterday, but I was very annoyed to read that Alain Jolicoeur, the President, started off by offering "our sincere and deepest sympathies to the family of Mr. Dziekanski" on behalf of the CBSA and its employees. "Offering sympathies"! Like some well-wisher or friend of the family! This, from the guy whose officers bungled a man to his death. People like me can "offer sympathies"; what's required from people like Jolicoeur is "apologies". But there was little of that in the report, which managed to vaguely blame the victim for not asking for help during his ordeal, even though they plainly state that they couldn't have understood him even if he had. But hey, "Mr. Dziekanski was given several glasses of water while he was in the secondary processing area", so what more do you want?

Fortunately, this isn't the end of the business, not by a long shot.
Solicitor-General John Les told reporters Monday in Victoria that the CBSA report confirms the need for a public inquiry, which would "be a more thorough airing of the facts" than individual agencies reporting on their particular areas of interest.

The province said last week it will hold a public inquiry; a commissioner is expected to be named within two weeks. The inquiry will look into the use of Tasers, the process of receiving foreign passengers in B.C., and the actions of the RCMP, the CBSA and the Vancouver Airport Authority. An inquest has also been scheduled.
This tight-lipped 3-page blur is the best proof of why "individual agencies reporting on their particular areas of interest" is not going to produce anything satisfactory.

CBSA deserves one cheer for at least coming up with a list of changes they will be making. At least they didn't say, "Yes, we did it, and we'd do it again," like the RCMP has done for the last few taser deaths.But still,
Jolicoeur said no one had been disciplined or reprimanded over the incident because CBSA officials at the airport followed normal operating procedures - the same procedures used to handle 96 million people a year who arrive at Canadian borders.
Just following orders. That pretty much says it all.

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