The Braidwood inquiry is facing a forced three-month break and the likely recall of key police witnesses after a newly discovered e-mail suggested that officers went into a fatal confrontation with Robert Dziekanski ready to taser him.
The suggestion, if true, would be at odds with testimony from the four officers, who denied forming specific plans as they separately headed to the international arrivals terminal at Vancouver Airport on Oct. 14, 2007, to deal with a call that a man - Mr. Dziekanski - was acting erratically.
"It changes everything," Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer for Mr. Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, told reporters after a chaotic morning hearing that ended with inquiry head Thomas Braidwood shutting down the proceedings until Sept. 22.
Final submissions were to begin yesterday, but commission counsel Art Vertlieb instead told all assembled that the federal justice department had this week released an e-mail that Chief Superintendent Dick Bent sent to Assistant Commissioner Al McIntyre on Nov. 5, 2007.
In the e-mail, Chief Supt. Bent recalls a conversation with Supt. Wayne Rideout, head of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team that was investigating the Polish immigrant's death.
"...spoke to Wayne and he indicated that the members did not articulate that they saw the symptoms of excited delirium, but instead had discussed the response, en route, and decided that if he did not comply that they would go to [Conducted Energy Weapon] He has asked investigators for a synopsis and should have it by noon tomorrow."
The four officers, the Mounties in the e-mail communication and Mr. Rideout will likely be called for further testimony.
Don Rosenbloom, a lawyer representing Poland at the inquiry, said the "stunning turn of events" seems to confirm his assertion that Mounties intended to taser Mr. Dziekanski from the start.
RCMP commissioner William Elliott described the failure to bring the communication forward earlier as an "oversight" at odds with the force's commitment to openness.
"Unfortunately, in an exercise of this magnitude, such an oversight can occur," he said in a statement, noting the force has turned over thousands of pages of material and told commission counsel about the matter.
"The RCMP is as disappointed as all of the parties involved in this inquiry that there will be a delay in the completion of the inquiry as a result of this unfortunate development."
Mr. Braidwood was not pleased.
"Without expressing any views about the content of the e-mail, I find the delay in disclosing this material to the commission to be appalling," he told the hearing.
"The contents of this e-mail must be investigated."
Within minutes of the arrival of the four Mounties in October, 2007, Mr. Dziekanski was blasted five times with a stun gun, cuffed, and died of cardiac arrest. The incident prompted a furious debate about the police use of such devices.
Disclosure of the e-mail caused turmoil in the hearing room.Helen Roberts, a federal government lawyer, wept and grabbed at Kleenex as she stood before the hearing to "sincerely apologize."
Lawyers for each Mountie said the e-mail was incorrect.
"There is now a dark cloud over my client and all of the officers," said lawyer David Butcher, who called for a quick process for the four Mounties to deny the allegation.
Mr. Vertlieb told the inquiry that the RCMP gave a CD-ROM with scores of documents to the justice department in April, but justice lawyers did not look at it until this week, when the RCMP told them about what the e-mail said.
"This is what late disclosure does. It results in a complete disruption of the process," he said.
He said the remarks seemed like hearsay, but had to be investigated even if it delayed a process that all parties have struggled to keep on track.
B.C.'s new attorney general said he found the sudden new evidence "troubling" but would leave it to Mr. Braidwood to deal with the development.
"It will be for Mr. Justice Braidwood to assess that evidence, assess its relevance and make appropriate findings," said Mike de Jong.
Ms. Cisowski said the e-mail developments confirmed her suspcions of an RCMP cover-up in the death of her son, who was moving to Canada to start a new life here.
She said the delay will be difficult. "I was thinking it would be over soon, but I have to patiently wait for the next step," she told reporters.
On Parliament Hill, opposition MPs expressed shock at the revelations.
"I think it's really going to shake the foundations of public trust in the RCMP," said Liberal MP Mark Holland. "This is an incredible act of betrayal and cover-up. And really, for an institution for which we expect so much, the senior leadership is discrediting it to a point where you really have to wonder how we're going to rebuild it."
NDP MP Jack Harris said he'd like to know who knew about this email inside the RCMP.
"This is a very serious problem that we have here," he said. "I'd like to know who else knew about this conversation, this email?"
With a report from Bill Curry in Ottawa