Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam calls on the RCMP to acknowledge the presence of systemic racism in the ranks and reform their system as he recounts his rough treatment at the hands of police in an interview with APTN News.
“They have to overhaul their system. Systemic racism goes back with the RCMP over 150 years since they were formed, and it’s deep rooted that much,” Adam said in an interview on Friday. “They don’t even realize and they don’t even recognize anymore, is that it’s part of day to day life. It’s forgotten, but it’s deep rooted so bad that it is part of their norm.”
He wants change: stronger screening processes for potential officers and “special guidelines” they have to follow.
“Being an RCMP or police officer is grueling, it’s vigorous. There are decisions to be made that become personal,” he said. “They have to overcome that, and those are the kind of questions that have to be answered when they have to go in for an interview: Find out what level of expertise they have, what they bring to the table when they want to join the police force, because the police force is supposed to protect and serve – not assault and charge.”
A police dash-cam captured the Mar. 10 arrest and the footage was released to media on Thursday. The nearly 12-minute video shows a Mountie tackling and punching Adam after confronting him and his family about an expired license-plate tag.
“My wife and I walked away from the casino, made our way to the vehicle. Upon going to the vehicle, my wife noticed that RCMP had the vehicle staked out and everything. When I went outside to remove the baby seat from the vehicle, I got it out and the cop was parked behind the trunk,” said Adam.
He says he then went to the cop, identified himself and asked what they were doing. The following dialogue is captured on the video:
“Tell your sergeant, what the f— is her name… I’m tired of being harassed by the RCMP,” Adam can be heard saying.
The officer replied, “Sir just return to your vehicle and I’ll come and talk to you in a minute.”
“Ok, just f—ing leave us alone,” Adam said.
Adam says he went back and told his wife what was happening with the license-plate.
“She said, ‘What?’ and put the vehicle in drive. She was going to drive out and the cop came knocking on the window, told her to roll down the window. When she rolled down the window, he yelled out, ‘This truck is not moving. It’s got a license expired’,”
Adam says the Mountie reached inside, put the truck in park and shut it off. He says that’s when a “heated discussion” between his wife and the cop occurred.
“There was no turning back from there,” said Adam. “He reached in to grab my wife and I said. ‘Take your hand off her.’ I got out and I went around the other side and I asked him, ‘Why are you doing this?’ Basically, he said he was doing what he was doing. I just stood there and watched what he did to my wife.”
The truck-bed obscures the view in the video somewhat at this point, but it looks like the cop starts twisting his wife’s arm and pushes her against the vehicle. Adam jumps out and steps between the two and assumes a fighting stance.
“The next thing I know, there are all kinds of RCMP coming from all over the place. So, I’m walking around the vehicle. Cop grabbed me by the arm and we are going to make our way to the panel, and when I looked up, I got bridged right across the cheek from the first officer on the scene that arrived,” he said.
“From there, I just dropped to my knees and fell to the ground. All I heard, all I felt was something hitting me and stuff like that. I was gasping for air.”
The footage shows a cop punching Adam in the face with his right fist after tackling him.
“Don’t resist, sir,” an officer said in the video.
“F—k off,” Adam replied.
“Don’t resist,” a cop again said right before Adam gets punched.
It looks like he then puts Adam in a choke-hold while screaming, “Stop resisting. Stop resisting.”
“What the f—k’s wrong with you guys? I’m not resisting,” Adam said in the video. Blood streams down his face as he police carry him off.
Watch Todd Lamirande’s story on the political reaction to the video.
Video of the arrest was all the talk on Parliament Hill Friday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was repeatedly asked about it during his daily COVID-19 briefing.
He called the images shocking and said he had serious questions about what took place.
Trudeau says he and all Canadians want answers.
“I think everyone who has seen this video has serious questions about what exactly happened, about how it happened this way and about that use of force that we saw,” he said. “That’s why we’re calling for an independent, transparent investigation that will get the answers to so many questions that people are asking right now.”
For the second day in a row Trudeau was also asked about RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.
Earlier this week, Lucki told CTV News that she is struggling over whether or not systemic racism is an issue in the RCMP.
Trudeau continued to back her as the right person to reform the force.
“I continue to have confidence in Commissioner Lucki for the changes that she’s made already within the force and the more changes we need to make quickly to ensure that the women and men who serve in our police forces across the country, including the RCMP can better serve their fellow Canadians,” said Trudeua.
“Particularly Indigenous and racialized Canadians.”
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was also asked about the video as evidence of systemic racism during his morning press conference.
While he didn’t give a direct answer, Scheer called for more dashboard and body cams.
“I certainly support measures 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 do face consequences,” Scheer said.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was asked to comment directly on the video during her COVID-19 media briefing.
She declined to remark on it, saying the incident is under an independent investigation.
“That is absolutely essential. And I think that all Canadians will be following that investigation very, very carefully,” she said. “Our government will certainly be watching it very, very carefully.”
Initially, the RCMP cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.
But Alberta’s police watchdog directed its law enforcement team to do an investigation into the allegations of assault and wrongful arrest made by Adam.
Chief Adam is scheduled to be in court on July 2.