Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam alleged members of the Wood Buffalo RCMP assaulted him and his wife.
Chief Adam spoke at a morning news conference on June 6 at the Athabasca Tribal Council office.
Mayor Don Scott and RMWB Councillors, and various Indigenous and Metis community leaders were also in attendance.
Police charged him with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest going back to an incident on March 10, 2020.
Chief Allan Adam admitted to friends and fellow leaders his reluctance to come forward.
Chipewyan Prairie First Nation Chief Vern Janvier encouraged him to speak out earlier.
“His love for people is the reason he said no. The same words were told to me by my grandfather. He said ‘Don’t look to start a war’.”
Chief Janvier added he disagrees with comments saying there is a lack of systemic racism in Canada.
Recent events in Nunavut and New Brunswick motivated Chief Adam to speak about his experience.
“Enough is enough.”
Around 2:15 a.m. on March 10, 2020, Wood Buffalo RCMP confronted Chief Allan Adam in the parking lot outside Peter Pond Mall.
At the time, Chief Adam said his family was in their parked vehicle while waiting for a friend.
His wife, Freda Courtoreille, sat in the driver’s seat, while he sat in the passenger seat.
Their niece was also inside the vehicle.
Chief Adam said police stopped them because of a recently expired vehicle license.
“While the situation could have easily been resolved by simply reminding us to renew the tags and take a taxi home, officers used the occasion to beat and arrest me in front of family and a number of witnesses in the parking lot.”
Chief Adam said RCMP returned his vehicle five days prior after impounding it for 60 days.
The fine for driving with an expired license is $310.
During the ordeal, he said he thought about his wife.
“My beloved wife; she was the one who had to suffer and endure the most pain of all.”
RCMP also arrested Courtoreille, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, for obstruction.
He alleged police assaulted her during the incident.
Chief Adam also said that as one officer restrained him, a second officer arriving later delivered a blow across his face.
“I looked up and out of nowhere, the second officer who was the first on the scene, by the time I noticed he gave me what you call in the wrestling world a ‘clothesline’.”
He added that by turning his face he prevented the officer from hitting the bridge of his nose, potentially causing further damage.
Chief Adam said the incident is not unusual.
“This happens every day to black, brown, low income and indigenous people across Canada. Despite only representing 5 per cent of the population, indigenous Canadians make up over 30 per cent of the prison population here.”
He demanded a full independent police force investigation into the matter.
“This is one of the clearest examples of police brutality.” Said his attorney Brian Beresh.
Beresh released two videos from residents, who recorded the incident.
During their playback, he described the actions of the police officer that he alleges tackled Chief Adam.
“Not only is that police officer putting his elbow on the back of Allan’s neck, he’s also putting his knee on him, and Allan’s not resisting he simply asking, ‘What’s happening? This isn’t fair’.”
Beresh called for the police to release their dash cam video, the immediate suspension of the offending officer, and a full independent investigation.
Chief Allan Adam and other Indigenous leaders also called for police officers to wear body cameras when out on patrols.
Chief Mel Grandjamb of the Fort McKay First Nation said he has concerns for his family after hearing Chief Adam’s ordeal.
“This treatment has to stop. The RCMP were entrusted to serve and protect.”
Grand Chief Arthur Noskey thanked Indigenous leaders and encouraged racialized communities to speak out against police brutality.
Chief Adam said Canadians deserve to know what their tax dollars pay.
“Canadians spend billions on policing every year, and deserve a police force that protects and respects the individual dignity of every single citizen — rich, poor, black, brown or Indigenous.”
Chief Allan Adam is next due in court on July 2, 2020.
Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) will investigate the incident.