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New RCMP email delays Braidwood Inquiry closing submissions

VANCOUVER - A contentious bombshell has been dropped in the middle of the inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death, delaying the Braidwood Inquiry on the morning long-awaited closing arguments were set to begin.

Commission counsel released an e-mail containing an exchange between two high-level RCMP officers that suggests the four officers who confronted Dziekanski discussed and planned to use a Taser weapon on the Polish immigrant before they even arrived at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.

The inquiry has been delayed until Sept. 22 2009 to explore the issues raised by the email.

In the Nov. 2007 e-mail, only given to the inquiry this week, RCMP Chief Supt. for E-division Dick Bent outlines a media strategy to handle the release of a widely-seen eyewitness video of Dziekanski's Tasering.

Bent tells his superior that he has been told that members discussed using the Taser beforehand.

"[The officers] discussed response en route and decided that if he did not comply, they would go to CEW [conducted energy weapon, or Taser]," Bent writes in the e-mail.

The information, commission counsel Art Vertlieb said, potentially suggests the officers may have not been following RCMP policy. And it appears to contradict evidence given by the officers earlier that they did not formulate a plan to use force on Dziekanski before responding to reports of a man throwing furniture in the arrivals area of the airport.

"On its face, the e-mail appears to tell a significantly different story," Vertlieb said.

And it raises an alarm that the RCMP may not have released all the relevant documents.

"I have concern as to whether or not the commission has received full disclosure of documents from the RCMP," Vertlieb said.

"This is what late disclosure does. It results in a complete disruption of the process."

The new information comes after four months of testimony.

Holding back tears, Government of Canada lawyer Helen Roberts apologized profusely to the inquiry. The e-mail had been stored on a CD given to the Department of Justice by the RCMP weeks ago, but never opened by lawyers. She said the blame lies with the legal team, not the RCMP.

Roberts said it's likely the information in the e-mail was incorrect or a misunderstanding. She said Bent had no memory of the event.

A lawyer for RCMP Supt. Wayne Rideout, then the leader of the team investigating Dziekanski's death and the officer who the information in the e-mail was attributed to, also said he had no knowledge of the information and suggested Bent had misunderstood.

Lawyers for the four RCMP officers argued the e-mail was little more than hearsay that now threatens the reputations of their clients. All four said they denied suggestions they had any prior plans to jolt Dziekanski with a Taser weapon.

Either way, the e-mail has delayed the inquiry's closing arguments, at least for the morning.

Commissioner Thomas Braidwood has ordered a break to deliberate how to handle the new information.

"I'm obviously appalled," Braidwood told lawyers.

Irwin Loy reports for Vancouver 24 hours.

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