This weekend Canada is in mourning Robert Dziekanski. His family, friends, and hundreds of neighbours gathered for a memorial in Kamloops, where his mother lives.
In Vancouver, hundreds, perhaps a thousand people gathered in Vancouver International Airport just outside the area where he died. Prayers were led in English and Polish, so everyone could understand.
Thanks to the media we are getting to know Robert Dziekanski. He is described as a gentle giant (6’9″) who was very intelligent and a skilled tradesman. As a teenager, during Soviet times, he was sent to jail for robbery but he learned his lesson and lived quietly after that. His girlfriend was an alcoholic and though they had troubles he had a hard time letting her go. His move to Canada was supposed to be a fresh start. He even quit smoking on the day he left.
Robert had a passion for astronomy and especially geography. Two of his three suitcases were packed full of atlases and geographical magazines. He also kept notes on all the countries of the world in a beautiful hand that puts my disorderly moleskines to shame. Perhaps his brief stint as a typesetter gave him an appreciation for letters. Here are his notes on the country he never really got to see:
Now that we have mourned, the activism can begin. Protests are scheduled for next weekend in Vancouver, Victoria, and Toronto. There is also quite a lot of online organizing going on, if Facebook is any indication (38 groups and counting, over 10,000 members). It’s wonderful to see Canadians showing their true colours and standing up for the humane treatment of all people. What the RCMP did is not who we are. How sad that we must teach one of our national symbols how to be Canadian.
UPDATE: The RCMP has announced that the four officers involved in the Dziekanski death have been assigned to other duties (about bloody time), and the B.C. government, in a rare show of class and democracy, has apologized for the incident and initiated its own comprehensive, independent, public inquiry into all aspects of Dziekanski’s death. A summary of all the investigations launched to date can be found at Justice for Robert Dziekanski.