Two men died yesterday after separate Taser incidents. Donald Clark died in an Asheville, North Carolina hospital after being Tasered Saturday, while closer to home, the death of an unidentified man at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has been grabbing headlines. These latest deaths bring the number of people who have died in North America after being shocked with the Taser’s 50,000 volt output to at least 284. (By the way, a number of domestic animals, including a loose cow in Spokane, Washington, have also died after being shocked with the Taser, raising further skepticism about the police and manufacturer’s claims that the electrical output of these weapons is harmless.)

Although 16 people have died in Canada since April of 2003, there are still no independent safety testing protocols or standards in this country. Unlike hair dryers, toasters, electric fences or cattle prods, Tasers are not subject to any testing before being sold.

How were Tasers introduced into Canada without any public debate? The answer lies in the aggressive marketing tactics and dubious claims of the manufacturer, Scottsdale, Arizona public company Taser International Inc. Taser International enlisted police officers to help promote the “Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle”, giving some of them stock options and cash payments for their efforts. Victoria, BC police officer Darren Laur, who wrote some early Taser endorsements, is one such police officer. Another police source has advised me that many police officers benefited from promoting the weapon, raising at least the spectre of a possible conflict of interest.

No wonder then, that the police are such advocates of this “less than lethal” device that inflicts excruciating pain and disables its victims. They will never say a negative word about the weapon, even as the death toll inevitably rises. That’s why independent and rigorous safety testing is needed…now.


The Canadian deaths:

1. April 19, 2003: Terrance Hanna, 51, Burnaby, BC (RCMP)

2. July 22, 2003: Clay Willey, 33, Prince George, BC (RCMP)

3. Sept. 28, 2003: Clark Whitehouse, 34, Whitehorse, Yukon (RCMP)

4. March 23, 2004: Perry Ronald, 28, Edmonton, Alta.

5. May 1, 2004: Roman Andreichikov, 25, Vancouver, BC

6. May 13, 2004: Peter Lamonday, 38, London, Ont.

7. June 23, 2004: Robert Bagnell, 44, Vancouver, BC

8. July 17, 2004: Jerry Knight, 29, Mississauga, Ont.

9. August 8, 2004: Samuel Truscott, 43, Kingston, Ont.

10. May 5, 2005: Kevin Geldart, 34, Moncton, NB (RCMP)

11. June 30, 2005: Gurmeet Sandhu, 41, Surrey, BC (RCMP)

12. July 1, 2005: James Foldi, 39, Beamsville, Ont.

13. July 15, 2005: Paul Saulnier, 42, Digby, Nova Scotia (RCMP)

14. December 24, 2005: Alesandro Fiacco, 33, Edmonton, Alta.

15. August 30, 2006: Jason Doan, 28, Red Deer, Alta. (RCMP)

16. October 14, 2007: Unidentified male, Richmond, BC (RCMP)