MONTREAL — For some Canadians, the 90-second video evoked memories of George Floyd: A white police officer appears to be kneeling on the neck of a Black teenager who is face down on the ground on a Montreal street.
The police said on Saturday that they were investigating what happened after a video of the encounter drew an outcry from politicians and human rights advocates, many of whom expressed alarm over the way the 14-year-old appears to have been restrained.
The Montreal police said that the encounter took place on June 10 after officers were called to the scene of a fight among 15 young people near a high school in Montreal’s Villeray neighborhood. They said that two of the youths were armed.
It was not clear what happened in the lead-up to the encounter between the officer and the teenager. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the teenager was subdued by officers’ knees for less than a minute and that one officer said the youth had what appeared to be a stun gun.
The outcry comes as Canada has been undergoing a national awakening about institutional racism, including among police forces, that has been fueled by the Black Lives Matter movement. Last year’s killing of Mr. Floyd by Minneapolis police officers set off that movement.
“This brings back memories of what happened to George Floyd, as police are using the same technique,” said Balarama Holness, a human rights advocate who is running for mayor of Montreal.
“Police need to be held accountable,” Mr. Holness continued. “These forms of techniques should not be allowed, period.”
Fernando Belton, a criminal defense lawyer who is representing the teenager in the video, said that he and another teenager, also 14, were apprehended after police officers arrived on the scene and the teens began to run away. He said one teenager was overtaken by two police officers, while the second was arrested by six officers. He said both had had knees placed on their necks.
“Why do you need that much police force on teenagers?” asked Mr. Belton, who teaches a class on racial profiling at University of Ottawa. “These are not criminals we’re talking about, but teenagers being arrested in broad daylight.”
The outcry over the video comes after Brenda Lucki, the commissioner of Canada’s storied national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was forced to walk back her previous denials of systemic racism within the force. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among those arguing that police forces across the country were grappling with systemic racism.
Last year, Canadians reacted with outrage to a police dash cam video showing an Indigenous chief being held by one police officer and tackled to the ground by another, punched in the head and put in a chokehold.
While Canada prides itself as a progressive, liberal bastion, human rights advocates say that its law enforcement agencies need to undergo fundamental cultural changes to prevent the targeting of minorities.
Concern about police behavior has extended beyond Montreal. A study by the Ontario Human Rights Commission said that between 2013 and 2017, Black people in Toronto were nearly 20 times as likely as white people to be involved in fatal shootings by Toronto’s police force.