NEWS
06/13/2020 15:31 EDT

Greta Thunberg Calls RCMP Treatment Of Chief Allan Adam 'Shameless Abuse'

The climate activist had met with the chief during her trip to Fort McMurray.

JOHN THYS / Getty Images
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg looks on as she takes part in a "Youth Strike 4 Climate" protest march on March 6, 2020 in Brussels. 

Greta Thunberg has seen footage of the RCMP’s arrest of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam and called the “shameful abuse” of the police “very disturbing to see.”

The 17-year-old climate activist tweeted her support for Chief Adam after a video of his encounter with the RCMP was made public. The footage shows the chief being tackled by two officers, getting punched and put in a chokehold in front of his wife.

Thunberg and Adam had previously met in Fort McMurray, where she stopped by after speaking at a large climate rally in Edmonton in October 2019. Adam met Thunberg to speak about the impact of climate change in his region, which has seen firsthand the detrimental effects of global warming with lower water levels and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns. Allan issued a statement in January when a resident on a snowmobile fell through thinning ice.

“This however shows once again the dangers of unchecked development and runaway climate change,” said Allan in a statement to MyMcMurray. “It is January 7 and minus thirty degrees in northern Alberta and yet the ice is still too thin to travel on. And this was just a Ski-Doo, not even a car or truck.”

Thunberg repeatedly asked for media focus to turn to Indigenous climate activists like Autumn Pelletier during her Canadian tour. Indigenous communities in Canada depend on their land for traditional forms of survival like hunting, fishing and farming and are often at the forefront of climate activism.

“We had a great discussion,” he told MyMcMurray after their meeting. “We’re happy that she’s choosing to educate herself about the local Indigenous peoples perspective as part of her tour of Alberta.”

Allan first revealed the brutal details of his experience with RCMP during a press conference on June 6. The arrest happened early morning on March 15 when RCMP stopped Allan for an expired license plate. 

At the press conference, he said things began to escalate when he saw police putting his wife in a headlock. The video shows that two police then tackled Allan behind his truck, and held him down aggressively.

Allan said it was only when he started yelling out that he was a chief that the officers stopped.

At the time of the first press conference, Allan’s legal team was still trying to get access to police dash-cam footage of the arrest. 

The chief released photos of his face after the arrest, which showed that his eye was swollen and bruised, while blood caked his face.

The dash-cam footage was released several days later as part of a court application to stay criminal charges against the chief.

Watch: Dash-cam footage shows Chief Allan Adam tackled, punched In RCMP arrest. Story continues below.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau even addressed the video during a morning briefing.

“Everyone who has seen this video has serious questions about what exactly happened, about how it happened this way and about the use of force that we saw,” said Trudeau. “That’s why we’re calling for an independent, transparent investigation that will get the answers to so many questions people are asking right now.”

The arrest is being investigated by Alberta’s Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), an independent branch of the police that investigates officer misconduct. Alberta RCMP’s deputy commissioner Curtis Zablocki had initially commented on the incident, saying that he didn’t believe racism was a systemic issue in Canadian.

Everyone who has seen this video has serious questions about what exactly happened, about how it happened this way and about the use of force that we saw.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

After facing intense scrutiny for this position, Zablocki said he changed his opinion a few days later after some “research and googling” he said. He also vowed to stamp out systemic racism from the RCMP.

Adam’s case is the latest in a slew of accusations of police brutalizing First Nations communities. Earlier in June, Indigenous mom Chantel Moore was killed by New Brunswick police after they were called to perform a “wellness check.” 

New Brunswick police killed another Indigenous person a few weeks after Moore’s death. Rodney Levi from the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation was shot by RCMP on Friday night as they were responding to a call about a disturbed person.

With files from The Canadian Press.