Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation listens as Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks during a press conference in Fort McMurray, Alta. on Friday May 30, 2014. Adam says ongoing concerns about coerced sterilization of Indigenous women is nothing short of a “crisis” and he wants to see a public inquiry into the allegations. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

‘Serious questions:’ Trudeau calls video of RCMP tackling chief shocking

The RCMP dash-cam footage was released publicly as part of a court application

While politicians demanded answers Friday after watching video of the violent arrest of a prominent northern Alberta First Nations chief, the province’s top Mountie walked back his suggestion that the RCMP has no systemic racism.

The RCMP dash-cam footage was released publicly as part of a court application to stay criminal charges against Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

It shows a Mountie charging at an agitated Adam, tackling him to the ground and punching him in the head.

“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 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Tough to watch this video of my friend Chief Adam being brutalized like this,” Alberta Indigenous Affairs Minister Rick Wilson wrote on Twitter.

Alberta Opposition Leader Rachel Notley tweeted that systemic racism in Alberta cannot be ignored. “I sincerely hope that an investigation into this incident leads to change for the better.”

Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, in a statement, stressed the need for an investigation to come to timely and thorough conclusions.

The 12-minute video from early on March 10 shows a black truck idling outside the Boomtown Casino in downtown Fort McMurray in the glow of flashing police lights.

Adam can be seen walking back and forth between the truck and an RCMP cruiser, shouting profanities at an officer out of view. The chief tells the officer to tell his sergeant: “I’m tired of being harassed by the RCMP.”

“Sir, just return to your vehicle. I’ll come talk to you in a minute,” the Mountie replies.

A few minutes later, after some arguing, Adam gets out of the truck’s passenger seat and takes off his jacket as he strides toward the officer. A woman in the driver’s seat gets out and Adam crouches as though bracing for a fight.

There is more arguing and Adam gets back into the passenger seat. The officer is seen pushing the woman against the truck and yanking her by the shoulder as she shouts, ”Ow!”

“Hey! Leave my wife alone! You come for me,” Adam says, before swatting the officer’s hands away from the woman.

About seven minutes into the video, a second officer runs at Adam, grabs him by the neck and shoulders and tackles him to the ground.

“Don’t resist, sir!” the officer yells, as he straddles the chief. That officer can be seen punching Adam in the side of the head with one arm while holding him down with the other.

“My name is Chief Allan Adam,” Adam says as the two officers pin him down.

The officers eventually handcuff the chief, pull him up and lead him toward the cruiser. His face is bloodied. His laboured breathing can be heard inside the police vehicle toward the end of the video.

The RCMP have said Adam’s truck had expired plates. They initially stated that the officers’ actions were reasonable.

The chief was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, the province’s police watchdog, issued a release Friday asking witnesses to get in touch.

The RCMP’s commanding officer in Alberta declined to comment on Adam’s arrest because of ASIRT’s investigation.

Earlier this week, Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said he didn’t believe racism is systemic in Canadian policing. On Friday, he said conversations and research had changed his mind.

“It was really getting a better perspective on what systemic racism is,” he said. “There are many types of racism terms and categories, as I (learned doing) some research and … Googling it.”

The president of the National Police Federation, a union representing 20,000 RCMP members, said he is “gravely concerned” about how the officers who arrested Adam are being vilified.

Brian Sauve said they could not legally allow the truck to be driven without valid registration and that traffic stops are some of the most dangerous police duties.

“The unknowns of who the driver or passenger is, their background and intentions, as well as what may be contained within a vehicle out of sight, are all risks for both police and the public.”

He said that’s why it’s standard to make sure drivers and passengers don’t get in and out of their vehicles.

Adam’s lawyer said the video shows police haven’t come very far in how they deal with citizens.

“If our police are so insensitive that this is how they respond to a $350 ticket, we have a problem,” Brian Beresh said.

“It infuriates me and I am sure it infuriates any reasonable person.”

Beresh said his client responded the way he did because he knows how police have treated Indigenous people. Beresh dismissed criticism that Adam is responsible for escalating the situation.

“If you watch the video, you can hear him saying, ‘Look, I’m the chief.’ He doesn’t say it threatening. He just says he’d like some respect,” he said.

“He was entitled to have that respect and he never got it.”

— with files from Teresa Wright in Ottawa

Colette Derworiz and Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nine new COVID-19 cases announced in Interior Health region

The total number of cases since the pandemic started is now at 531 for the region

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health

The total number of Interior Health cases since the beginning of the pandemic is now at 522

Greens, Liberals, NDP field Fraser-Nicola candidates ahead of October election

Incumbent Jackie Tegart has two opposing candidates after snap election called Monday

Work has started on 20 units of seniors’ housing in Clinton

Much-delayed project has been in the works for almost a decade

Orange Shirt Society launches first textbook on residential school history

Phyllis Webstad and Joan Sorley worked on the 156-page book to help educate students

Horgan vows to replace B.C.’s shared senior care rooms in 10 years

$1.4 billion construction on top of staff raises, single-site work

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

Orange Shirt Day lessons of past in today’s classrooms

Phyllis Webstad, who attended St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in British Columbia, is credited for creating the movement

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Greens’ Furstenau fires at NDP, Liberals on pandemic recovery, sales tax promise

She also criticized the NDP economic recovery plan, arguing it abandons the tourism industry

U.S. Presidential Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

Here are key takeaways from the first of three scheduled presidential debates before Election Day on Nov. 3

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

Most Read