Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he has “serious questions” about the arrest of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam after viewing recently released dashcam video that shows an RCMP officer jump-tackling the chief to the ground and punching him in the head.
“We have all now seen the shocking video of Chief Adam’s arrest and we must get to the bottom of this,” Trudeau said during his daily briefing in Ottawa this morning.
“Like many people, I have serious questions about what happened. The independent investigation must be transparent and be carried out so that we get answers.
“At the same time, though, we also know that this is not an isolated incident. Far too many Black Canadians and Indigenous people do not feel safe around police. It’s unacceptable. And as governments, we have to change that.”
The prime minister said Mounties themselves need to be part of the solution.
“They are people who have stepped up to serve their community,” he said. “And they will be invaluable allies as we move forward to make sure that all Canadians are well-served by these institutions.”
Adam went public over the weekend, alleging that he was beaten during his arrest outside a Fort McMurray, Alta., casino early the morning of March 10.
On Thursday, CBC News obtained a nearly 12-minute video of his arrest. In the video, Adam swears repeatedly at the police officers, accuses the RCMP of harassing him and removes his jacket while appearing ready to fight one of the officers after they pulled up behind his idling truck.
About seven minutes into the incident, one officer tries to grab Adam’s left arm in what looks to be an attempt to arrest him.
Then, another officer runs up and jump-tackles Adam to the ground. The second officer punches Adam in the head as he continues to struggle and, a few seconds later, places him in a chokehold.
An affidavit filed in court along with the video quotes the notes of Const. Simon Seguin.
“I charged at the male [Adam] with the intention of bringing him to the ground,” Seguin wrote in his notes. “I struck the male as he tried to come up. He turned on his right side. I struck him using my right hand on his right side of the face.
“I wrapped my hand [left arm] around his jaw and started squeezing.”
After reviewing the dashcam video of the incident, the RCMP determined the arresting officers’ actions were reasonable “and did not meet the threshold for an external investigation.”
But Alberta’s director of law enforcement directed the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team to conduct an investigation after Adam — who faces one count each of resisting arrest and assaulting a peace officer — and his lawyer made criminal allegations.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he was troubled by the video.
“I found it very difficult to watch. Obviously, there is an investigation going on right now so I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to comment beyond just saying I found it very troubling, very worrying,” he said on Friday.
“I think the events of the last few days and weeks have ignited a very important conversation about the use of excessive force and the need for things like dashcams and body cams.
“I certainly support to have those types of pieces of equipment installed to ensure that when these incidents happen, we have as much information as possible to determine whether or not officers acted inappropriately, and to ensure that those who do face consequences.”
Lucki says force needed sometimes
When asked about the incident in an interview earlier this week, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said there are times when “intervention” is needed.
“Nobody likes to see pictures like that,” she told the CBC’s Rosemary BartonLucki. “There is always a set of circumstances and, depending on the circumstances and the level of resistance, sometimes there are intervention actions that need to be taken.
“Obviously, we never want to see anybody get hurt when we’re dealing with anybody in any an incident, but it does happen.”
In that interview, and subsequent media appearances, Lucki said she’s unsure about the definition of systemic racism,
“In the last couple of days I have honestly heard about 15 or 20 definitions of systemic racism,” she told CBC.
“If it refers to an unconscious bias that exists … we definitely have that in the RCMP and we are not immune to it at all. There are times when our members don’t act in accordance with our core values, which includes racism, and it’s those times that we have to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”
She later told the Globe and Mail that “if systemic racism is meaning that racism is entrenched in our policies and procedures, I would say that we don’t have systemic racism.”
Former commissioner Bob Paulson admitted there were racists within the ranks back in 2015 while speaking to a group of First Nations leaders.
“I understand that there are racists in my police force. I don’t want them to be in my police force,” Paulson said to chiefs and other First Nations delegates during the annual Assembly of First Nations meeting.