Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has said dashcam video of the violent arrest of a Canadian aboriginal chief is shocking and that black Canadians and indigenous people do not feel safe around police.
The arrest has received attention in Canada as a backlash against racism grows worldwide after the death of George Floyd after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck.
A 12-minute police video shows an officer charging at Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam with his arm and elbow up as he tackles him to the ground. It also shows the officer punching him in the head.
Mr Trudeau called the video “shocking”, and said: “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.”
Pictures show Mr Adam was left bloodied with his face swollen. Alberta’s police watchdog is investigating.
Police charged Mr Adam with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police dashcam video was released publicly as part of a court application to get criminal charges against Mr Adam removed.
The video earlier showed a different officer approaching Mr Adam’s truck outside a casino in Fort McMurray, Alberta, early on the morning of March 10. Police have said the truck had expired licence plates.
The video shows him getting in and out of the vehicle, removing his coat and taking a karate-like stance and using expletives as he complains about being harassed by police. His wife and niece get in between Mr Adam and the officer at times.
His lawyer, Brian Beresh, has filed a court motion to have criminal charges dropped over violation of Mr Adam’s constitutional rights.
“All of this resulted from an expired licence plate tag. The video speaks for itself,” Mr Beresh said in a statement.
Mr Trudeau has said the issue of systemic racism in policing is longstanding and needs addressing.
Mr Adam held a news conference last weekend to talk about excessive force and racism. He has noted that although aboriginals represent 5% of Canada’s population, they make up to 30% of the prison population.
Opposition Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said he was troubled by the video.
“It’s very difficult to watch,” he said. “I found it very troubling and very worrying. The events of the last few days and weeks have ignited a very important conversation about the use of excessive force.”
The RCMP said in a statement that the video had been reviewed by supervisors and “it was determined that the members’ actions were reasonable and did not meet the threshold for an external investigation”.
The statement from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation called for the officers involved to be punished and criminal charges brought.