OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadians deserve answers over the arrest of a prominent indigenous leader who alleges police beat him up after an incident involving an expired license plate, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said on Sunday.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) say officers used reasonable force after Chief Allan Adam of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation resisted arrest outside a casino in the Alberta town of Fort McMurray in March. Adam released a photo of his swollen and bloodied face.
“We are deeply concerned by the incident that took place in Fort McMurray. People across the country deserve answers,” Blair said on Twitter. Blair is in overall charge of law enforcement.
Canada has around 1.7 million people of indigenous descent, or just under 5% of the overall population, many of whom live in communities hit by crime, ill-health and poverty. Complaints about police discrimination are widespread.
Adam, charged with resisting arrest and assaulting police, is due in court on July 2. Late on Saturday, the RCMP said it was launching an independent probe of the arrest, which Blair said Ottawa would follow closely.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday said discrimination by police against indigenous people and people of color “needs to end”. He spoke after police officers shot and killed an aboriginal woman and video showed police appearing to purposely drive into an indigenous man.
Protesters in Montreal took to the streets on Sunday in the latest peaceful Canadian demonstration against police brutality, sparked by the death of an unarmed black man in Minnesota who was in police custody.
Adam played a leading role in discussions with the federal and Alberta governments over a proposed massive oilsands mine in northern Alberta. Adam complained some indigenous people had not been consulted adequately about the project, which was shelved in February.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Daniel Wallis