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

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

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

The Purcell Wilderness Conservancy is the largest protected area in southeastern B.C. Photo: B.C. Parks
Province adds land to Valhalla and Purcell parks

Both additions enhance the parks’ ecological values, the province says

RCMP responded to a report early Friday morning of a suspect firing a gun at a Salmo home. Photo: Black Press
RCMP arrest woman who fired shots at Salmo home

The woman allegedly discharged a firearm early Friday morning

Nelson is holding a municipal by-election to replace former councillor Brittny Anderson, who resigned in December. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Nelson by-election nomination deadlines set

Candidacies must be registered between Feb. 9 and Feb. 19

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Most Read