“We must get to the bottom of this,” Trudeau said during his daily briefing in Ottawa.
“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.”
Adam was arrested outside a casino in Fort McMurray, Alta., early on the morning of March 10. The events were caught on an RCMP dashcam video.
The nearly 12-minute video shows two people, one of them Adam, getting in and out of the vehicle, using expletives, as he complains about being harassed by police.
Trudeau acknowledged that the incident is “not isolated.”
“Far too many Black Canadians and Indigenous People do not feel safe around the police. It’s unacceptable. And it’s governments — we have to change that.”
During a meeting with premiers Thursday night, Trudeau said “all leaders were united in condemning racism and in agreeing that we must do more to combat it.”
He said they discussed possible changes to policing, like the adoption of body cameras, which he also discussed with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki in recent days.
Trudeau said he continues to have confidence in Lucki in making the necessary changes to the RCMP.
“But reforms are needed at all levels of policing, and these reforms need to happen quickly in the days and weeks to come,” he said. “Our government will continue to move as fast as we can with all our partners.”
Details on the arrest
According to the RCMP, the incident transpired over Adam’s truck, which had expired licence plates.
The video shows the situation escalating when a second officer arrives. The officer charges at Adam, tackles him to the ground and punches him in the head.
Adam was left bloodied. He was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
Adam told reporters at a news conference Saturday that he felt the need to speak up about the situation because he wanted to shed light on what racialized Canadians face during arrests.
“We (Indigenous people) are a minority, and nobody speaks up for us,” he said Saturday. “Every time our people do wrong, the RCMP… they always seem to use excessive force. And that has to stop.”
He also went on to allege that the RCMP were already watching him and his family from across several parking lots as they loaded in the truck shortly after 2 a.m. the morning he was arrested.
RCMP say Adam resisted arrest
Wood Buffalo RCMP have said Adam resisted during the arrest and that officers were “required to use force.”
The force said the officers’ actions were reasonable and did not meet the threshold for an investigation. However, Alberta’s police watchdog agency has launched an investigation.
When asked about the force used by the officer in the video, Trudeau said it was why a “clear, transparent and independent investigation” is needed.
“I think we’ve seen examples of systemic discrimination, of systemic racism in the past days in many different ways — that’s why we need to address it seriously,” he said.
“It’s why we need to look at the entire system to improve it, to make sure situations like this don’t happen in the future.”
The video was filed as a court exhibit on Thursday. The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said the video was released publicly as part of a court application to get criminal charges against Adam stayed.
Freeland, Scheer on ‘disturbing’ video
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland echoed Trudeau’s comments about a need for an independent investigation.
She acknowledged that systemic racism exists within police forces and all institutions in Canada.
“This is a moment in our country when we need to confront the really horrible reality that systemic racism exists here in Canada, anti-Black racism exists in Canada, anti-Indigenous racism exists in Canada. It is systemic,” she said Friday.
“We need to acknowledge that, we need to confront that and we need to work really hard together to end that.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer spoke out about the incident on Twitter shortly after the video was made public.
At a press conference on Friday morning, he said he was troubled by the reports and that the video is “very difficult to watch.”
“Obviously, there is an investigation right now, so I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to comment beyond saying that it is very troubling, very worrying,” he said. “I think the events over the last few weeks have ignited a very important conversation around the use of excessive force.”
Scheer went on to accuse Trudeau of having “done nothing” to clear a backlog of complaints made against the RCMP since his time in office began.
“They’ve done nothing to provide the sources needed to investigate those complaints,” he said. “If Trudeau has done nothing about these types of things, he’s indicating that there are issues with the RCMP and with systemic racism — so precisely what is he going to do about it?”
Trudeau said his government has made “significant steps” in the collection of disaggregated data on police use of force, but that there’s more to do.
“We need race-based data to understand exactly what’s going on,” he said.
This latest incident comes to light as police officers in the U.S. and around the world have come under fire for their excessive use of force, following the video of George Floyd‘s arrest in Minneapolis. Floyd, a Black man, was pinned to the ground by an officer who kneeled on his neck. The arrest was over an alleged counterfeit bill. Floyd later died in hospital.
His arrest has spurred worldwide protests against police brutality and issues of systemic racism in law enforcement.
– With files from Global News’ Phil Heidenreich, David Akin and Allison Bench, and the Canadian Press