Tasers authorized in Saskatchewan
On January 21, 2013, the Saskatchewan Police Commission approved the use of Conducted Energy Weapons – commonly referred to by the brand name “tasers” – by municipal police. This announcement followed an extensive multi-year review inspired in part by concerns around the taser-related death of Robert Dziekanski in Vancouver Airport in 2007. Any municipal police force wishing to issue tasers to its members must still have its policies approved by the Commission before the device can be deployed. Up until this point, only tactical units and RCMP officers in the province were authorized to use tasers.
International human rights standards for the use of force and firearms by law enforcement support the principle that the minimum force necessary should be used to safely resolve any situation.
For many years, Amnesty International was concerned that stun devices – which are particularly prone to misuse – were introduced in advance of an adequate understanding of the technology. As a result, tasers ended up being used too soon and too often. Further studies and recent public debate has gone a long way to improving the approach to the device in Canada.
While welcoming many aspects of the new guidelines including accountability, training and certification requirements, limiting the deployment to single stuns and post-use reviews, Amnesty International remains concerned that the threshold for use – imminent high risk of bodily harm – is simply too low.
Police in Canada lack common standards for the use of tasers – some are subject to federal government jurisdiction and others to provincial and territorial governments. In 2010, a federal/provincial/territorial working group developed non-binding guidelines which fell short of establishing any threshold for use other than a general reference to a “federally or provincially recognized use-of-force framework.”
Amnesty International continues to call on all jurisdictions in Canada to limit the use of Conducted Energy Weapons (“tasers”) to situations involving an imminent threat of death or serious (potentially life threatening) injury which cannot be contained by less extreme options.
Canada should also adopt a clear legislative framework to govern the testing and approval for use of all weapons used by police and other law enforcement agencies, which clearly incorporates international human rights standards including provisions of the UN Convention against Torture.
For further information contact John Tackaberry, Media Relations (613)744-7667 #236 firstname.lastname@example.org