Edmonton

Trudeau 'deeply alarmed' by brutality claims during arrest of Alberta Indigenous chief

Allegations of racism and police brutality brought forward by a First Nations chief in northern Alberta are deeply troubling to Canada's prime minister, who vowed to bring in "significant, concrete and rapid measures" to address systemic racism in policing.

Public safety minister said government will pay close attention to independent inquiry

At a press conference on June 6, 2020, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam alleged Wood Buffalo RCMP officers assaulted him in a Fort McMurray parking lot earlier this year. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

Allegations of racism and police brutality brought forward by a First Nations chief in northern Alberta are deeply troubling to Canada's prime minister, who vowed to bring in "significant, concrete and rapid measures" to address systemic racism in policing.

"We have obviously all seen, and been deeply alarmed by, the pictures that Chief Adam shared," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday, referring to the allegations made Saturday by Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam.

"We need to do more. We need to take significant measures to move forward," he added.

The prime minister added his voice to concerns already raised by two other federal ministers including Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief, who said in a tweet that the government will be paying close attention to the independent inquiry into Adam's allegations.

Adam told a news conference that he was beaten by RCMP officers and that his wife was manhandled in March when police stopped him for an expired licence plate outside a casino in Fort McMurray.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, an independent body which investigates deaths or injuries involving police, said later that day that it will investigate the incident.

Adam is facing charges of resisting arrest and assaulting police, and RCMP say the officers needed to use force during the arrest.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says in a tweet that he's spoken twice with Adam this weekend, and that he was disturbed by what the chief told him.

"His description of the incident in Fort McMurray and the use of force on both his wife and him at the hands of the RCMP is deeply troubling," Miller wrote.

In an appearance on CBC's Power & Politics Monday evening, Adam said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney had called him to apologize.

"I have spoken to Chief Adam, and assured him that the matter has been referred to Alberta's Serious Incident Response Team," Kenney wrote in a tweet.

News of the allegations and a photo that Adam released of himself with injuries he says he sustained during the incident have received widespread attention as anti-racism rallies continue to attract large crowds across the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa Monday he has spoken with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki about allegations Chief Allan Adams was beaten by officers. 2:33

"We are deeply concerned by the incident that took place in Fort McMurray. People across the country deserve answers," Blair tweeted Sunday.

"There will be an independent investigation, which we will be following closely."

Adam said a police vehicle pulled up behind his truck while he was moving a child seat at around 2 a.m. on March 10. He said he asked the officer why police were harassing him and told him who he was, and he said he told the officer he would raise the matter with his superior.

Adam said he made his way back into his truck where his wife was at the wheel, and that he told her that they weren't allowed to go anywhere. He said she put the truck into drive, and then the officer began knocking on the window.

More officers arrived during an ensuing altercation, and Adam said one of the officers "just gave me a, what you would call in the wrestling world, a clothesline" and that he fought to maintain consciousness.

"Every time our people do wrong ... (the RCMP) always seem to use excessive force and that has to stop," Adam told reporters Saturday. "Enough is enough." 

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam says RCMP beat and arrested him earlier this year when officers stopped him over his truck's registration. Alberta's Serious Incident Response Team is now investigating. 2:23

Adam and his lawyer released two videos taken by bystanders of the incident. Police say they also have video, which has been viewed by Adam's lawyer, but that the force isn't releasing to the public.

Adam will appear in Wood Buffalo Provincial court on July 2.

Trudeau reiterated his concern about the long-standing issue of systemic racism in policing. He said he spoke Monday morning to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and said the concern remains a high priority to address.

"There is more to do and that is a conversation I had with Commissioner Lucki this morning," he said.

"I will continue working with her and with all of our partners on ensuring that we bring forward significant, concrete and rapid measures to address these issues."

During his time as Toronto's police chief, Blair would fight off calls for his resignation after hundreds of protesters were rounded up on Toronto's streets during the G20 summit protests in 2010.

Watch | Trudeau says he is 'deeply alarmed' by First Nations chief's report he was beaten by RCMP

WARNING: Explicit audio. Two citizens filmed a March 10, 2020 arrest during which Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam says Wood Buffalo RCMP officers assaulted him. RCMP have said superiors reviewed footage of the incident and deemed the officers' actions reasonable. 3:44

With files from CBC News

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