The chief of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is calling for RCMP to release dashcam video and hold an independent investigation after a violent encounter with RCMP in Fort McMurray, Alta., during which he alleges he was beaten up and his wife was “manhandled.”
Chief Allan Adam, who’s held the position since 2007, gave a detailed breakdown and provided eyewitness video of his March encounter with police during an emotional press conference Saturday.
“Every time our people do wrong, the RCMP, they always seem to use excessive force — and that has to stop,” he said. “Enough is enough.”
Adam said the confrontation with RCMP happened early morning on March 15 when he was leaving a casino in the downtown Fort McMurray area. While waiting in their truck for a friend, Adam said RCMP approached him and his wife for expired licence plates.
Warning: The footage released by Chief Allan Adam shows part of his encounter with the RCMP. The video may be disturbing to some viewers.
Adam wasn’t aware his registration had expired, having just picked up his truck from the police impound where it had been for 60 days. He said the situation with police escalated when he tried to explain the missing registration, with police then allegedly grabbing and arresting Adam’s wife.
“The cop grabbed her and put her up against the truck, manhandled her and everything,” said Adam, noting that his wife, who suffers from arthritis, was allegedly put in an RCMP arm-lock. The situation began to escalate when Adam warned officers that he didn’t like the way his wife was being treated.
That’s when he was taken down by an officer and beaten, Adam alleged.
“It was just like a tag-team match,” he said, describing one officer holding him down while he was hit by the other.
“I dropped to my knees and slowly I could feel that I was going unconscious,” he said “My blood was just gushing out of my mouth.”
It was then that Adam started to yell out that he was a chief, after which he said the police started to back off.
“By then I think they realized they were in trouble.”
Wood Buffalo RCMP said they charged Adam with one count of resisting arrest and one count of assaulting police, in a statement. They also said their officers were “required to use force to effect the arrest.” No charges against Adam’s wife Freda Courtoreille were listed, though Adam’s lawyer Brian Beresh said she was arrested for obstruction.
Adam said he was let go at 9:30 a.m. the same day.
Adam and his lawyer are calling for the release of the officer’s dashcam footage and a full investigation of the case by an independent police force.
“This will be dealt with in the court of law, and there will be changes coming.”
They also asked for the immediate suspension of the constable they say held down Adam. The RCMP said that their “members’ actions were reasonable” and did not meet the threshold for an external investigation, based on footage from their in-car video system.
“It’s not going to happen,” RCMP spokesperson Const. Patrick Lambert told HuffPost Canada, about releasing police footage. “What is routine, regardless of the offence, is when a criminal charge is laid and the party is brought before the judicial system, the police and Crown provide disclosure of their case to the defendant,” he said.
“It is not routine nor are we required to make a disclosure to the public.”
Adam also released two independent eyewitness videos of the incident. The footage shows police vehicles surrounding Courtoreille, who sounds distressed. During the Saturday news conference, Adam paused talking to step over and comfort Courtoreille, while he was describing the incident.
“Take it easy on the lady, guys,” says the man recording the video. Adam also took photos afterward, which show one side of his face badly swollen and caked with blood.
Warning: Photo below contains graphic content.
Beresh said they had waited to take action against the RCMP over the March incident because of Adam’s emotional state and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Beresh drew comparisons between Adam’s case and the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who was stopped for an alleged counterfeit bill.
“Allan, you made one mistake,” said Beresh. “You asked ‘why?’ You were protecting your rights.”
Beresh said the video shows that Adam never assaulted a police officer or resisted arrest, and that the RCMP constable put his elbow and knee against Adam’s neck. As part of their case, Beresh is pushing for better accountability with more police video surveillance.
“If we cannot trust them, then we have to record their activities.”
After the news conference, Adam was scheduled to attend a peaceful protest in Fort McMurray, in support of anti-Black racism demonstrations throughout the United States and around the world. Before that, he shared some advice for Indigenous youth in the area.
“This will be dealt with in the court of law, and there will be changes coming,” he said.
“We went through a fire, we went through a flood, we went through a lot here in Fort McMurray, and we Native people went through a whole lot more — we will overcome this.”
Adam is set to appear in Wood Buffalo Provincial court on July 2.