For the third time in less than a week, federal ministers of the Crown including the prime minister are being forced to comment on police violence against Indigenous people.
The latest incident is coming from Alberta where Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam said that he was beaten by RCMP officers and that his wife was manhandled in March when police stopped him for an expired license plate outside of Fort McMurray.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “deeply alarmed” by the picture Adam shared of his bruised and swollen face. Trudeau reiterated the need to “do more” to address systemic racism and police violence, saying he raised the issue in a call with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.
Bill Blair, Canada’s public safety minister says the government will be paying close attention to the independent inquiry into these allegations.
“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.”
We are deeply concerned by the incident that took place in Fort McMurray. People across the country deserve answers. There will be an independent investigation, which we will be following closely.
— Bill Blair (@BillBlair) June 7, 2020
Also issuing a statement Sunday was Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller who said 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.
This is the third high profile case of violence against Indigenous people brought on by the police.
On June 1, a video that surfaced of an RCMP officer arresting a man in Kinngait (formerly Cape Dorset), Nunavut, by hitting him with the open door of a moving police vehicle.
Four more officers swarm and arrest the man and lift him into the truck while shouting at bystanders to get away.
Police confirmed the man was beaten by another man in the cell in Kinngait requiring him to be medivaced to an Iqaluit hospital.
When asked, Blair called the video “shocking and disturbing.”
“The graphic video depicting the violent behavior of RCMP officers that is circulating online is both shocking and disturbing,” Blair’s press secretary Mary-Liz Power wrote APTN News in an email.
“The officer involved has been removed from the community, and an external investigation has been launched into this situation to determine appropriate penalties for these actions and ensure they never happen again.”
Miller said the video was unacceptable.
“A car door is not a proper police tactic. It’s a disgraceful, dehumanizing and violent act,” Miller said in Ottawa.
The Ottawa police are investing this latest incident – the sixth police incident involving violence or death in 2020.
Fast forward to June 4, police in Edmundston, N. B., shoot and kill Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old mother who was originally from B.C.
“I don’t understand how someone dies during a wellness check,” Miller said at the time. “When I first saw the report, I thought it was some morbid joke. And you look at it and you say, ‘Yes, there’ll be an independent investigation.’ But frankly along with many Canadians, Indigenous peoples living in Canada, politicians, I’m pissed. I’m outraged. There needs to be a full accounting of what has gone on. This is a pattern that keeps repeating itself.”
An elder from Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick told APTN she wasn’t surprised by the shooting.
“Was really not a shock to me personally because of the continuous mistreatments that we’ve endured throughout the decades by the RCMP as well as city or town cops has not changed,” said Hart Perley.
Now politicians are responding to Adam’s allegations.
Over the course of the weekend, I have spoken twice to Chief Allan Adam of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. 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. #cdnpoli
— Marc Miller (@MarcMillerVM) June 7, 2020
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.
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.
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 … Enough is enough,” Adam told reporters Saturday.
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.
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.
With files from Brett Forester, Kent Driscoll, Angel Moore and the Canadian Press.