A northern Alberta First Nations chief continues to draw national media attention after going public last week with his story of serious assault at the hands of RCMP over an expired driver’s registration.
Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam was in a vehicle with his wife Freda Courtoreille in Fort McMurray in the early morning hours of Mar. 10 when they were approached by an officer over what turned out to be an expired licence plate.
The two had been at a nearby casino and were about to leave.
Adam said the officer immediately got aggressive with his wife reaching his hand into the running truck and putting it in park before telling her she “wasn’t going anywhere.”
He said when he then got out of the vehicle to explain why the registration had lapsed, the officer got even more aggressive pulling Courtoreille out of the driver’s side door and putting her arm behind her back in a lock-hold.
The Athabasca Chipewyan chief said the confrontation continued to escalate from there and he was seriously assaulted by another officer while being taken into custody.
He now faces charges of resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
Adam said he did not initially come forward with what happened because the number one issue for his community was dealing with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and his lawyer Brian Beresh advised him not to.
However, after witnessing the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police a few weeks ago, he said he felt he had no choice but to come forward with his own personal story of racialized police brutality.
“You know the time is right,” Adam said. “What happened with George Floyd and mounting pressure. My wife going through the depression that she’s gone through over the last three months and in regards to all of this mayhem.”
Thus far, the RCMP is insisting the level of force used was justified.
The force says it has video evidence of the incident and Adam’s resistance to arrest shows the actions taken by officers on the scene was warranted.
However, Mounties are refusing to release the video while the matter is before the courts.
Beresh told the Globe and Mail he has seen the video and is calling on the RCMP to release it because it in fact does show the level of force used by one officer in particular was both excessive and inappropriate.
Adam suffered severe bruising and cuts to his face as a result of the assault while he said he actually never laid a hand on any of the officers.
The First Nations leader said his story is just another example of the continued humiliation and excessive violence Indigenous people have been forced to undergo by Canada’s national police force since colonization.
“It is just like every police officer is the judge, jury and executioner. And the sad part about it is after you’ve been found guilty by the RCMP or police officer, you have to stand in court again and you’re prosecuted all over again.”
When asked how the RCMP may have handled things differently, Adam said it was all in the approach.
“They probably could have told my wife, ‘your licence plate is expired. If you want, you could take a cab. We’ll escort you home.’ Whatever. But not to the point where they were physically grabbing my wife. That was uncalled for.”
Recently re-elected to a third term in Athabasca Chipewyan, he said both the RCMP and Canadian justice system need a complete overhaul.
There is also a growing movement in both the United States and Canada calling on governments to “defund” police forces.
This would see tax dollars diverted away from the police and to other resources such as on the ground mental health and addiction support services.
(PHOTO: Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam seen here at a rally calling on RCMP to release the video of his Mar. 10 arrest and assault by police in Fort McMurray. Photo courtesy of Allan Adam.)