by Jake Cardinal
(ANNews) – In the early hours of March 10, 2020 Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam was leaving a popular casino nightclub in Fort McMurray when he was stopped by police over an expired license plate. An altercation ensued after Chief Adam witnessed his wife being harassed by the police.
Chief Adam stated in a Globe and Mail [G&M] article, which was released on June 5, 2020: “He says, ‘I’ve had enough of this,’ and he grabs my wife, takes my wife out of the vehicle and puts my wife in a famous RCMP hold [arm-lock in the back]. And my wife suffers from rheumatoid stage 4 arthritis. She is just starting to recover and feel good and everything, and they tried to put her on the ground and put handcuffs on her.”
Also featured in the Globe and Mail article, written by Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife, was a photo of Chief Adam’s injuries following the assault.
Chief Adam was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. However, the Chief and his Edmonton lawyer, Brian Beresh, claim the officers involved in the incident showed an excessive use of force.
Fraser Logan, the Alberta RCMP’s media relations manager, said in the G&M article: “During the course of the arrest, Mr. Adam was resisting the members and, unfortunately, to bring the situation under control, the members were required to use force to effect the arrest. This incident was captured on the in-car video system in the police vehicle… and it was determined that the members’ actions were reasonable.”
The Alberta Serious Response Team were not looking into the matter at the time of the article’s release.
Beresh, Chief Adam’s lawyer, challenged the RCMP to release the dash-cam footage, which he believed showed the officers’ excessive use of force.
The RCMP declined to release the footage, claiming that it was a “matter before the courts.”
“We want the police video to be made public because that shows an officer arriving on the scene, without any notice, without any inquiry, making a tackle and a number of punches [thrown], which is similar to George Floyd,” Mr. Beresh said in the G&M article.
Chief Allan Adam is scheduled to appear in Wood Buffalo provincial court on July 2, 2020.
Prime Minister Trudeau Responds to Allegations
On Saturday June 6, 2020 the Alberta Serious Response Team finally started looking into the matter. Mr. Beresh had requested an investigation earlier that morning.
The Director of Law Enforcement, Bill Sweeney, said he decided to order the investigation because “he is claiming that he has been assaulted. And he’s alleged that he was assaulted and that it was an unlawful arrest and that falls within the parameters of sensitivity of [Section 46.1 of Alberta’s Police Act.]”
The allegations have sparked a flurry of comments from multiple high-ranking officials.
On Sunday June 7, 2020 Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief, said in a Tweet: “We are deeply concerned by the incident that took place in Fort McMurray. People across the country deserve answers. There will be an independent investigation, which we will be following closely.”
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller also wrote in a Twitter post: “Over the course of the weekend, I have spoken twice to Chief Allan Adam of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. His description of the incident in Fort McMurray and the use of force on both his wife and him at the hands of RCMP is deeply troubling.”
On Monday June 8, 2020 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to the allegations made by Chief Adam and Mr. Beresh.
“We have obviously all seen, and been deeply alarmed by, the pictures that Chief Adam shared,” Trudeau said, “We need to do more. We need to take significant measures to move forward.”
Surprisingly, Jason Kenney even wrote a Twitter post: “I was deeply disturbed to hear Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam’s report of an incident involving police in Fort McMurray in March. I have spoken to Chief Adam, and assured him that the matter has been referred to Alberta’s Serious Incident Response Team.”
Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki, Alberta’s highest ranking officer, said in a news conference in Edmonton “I don’t believe that racism is systemic through Canadian policing. I don’t believe it’s systemic through policing in Alberta.”
The Dash-Cam Footage
On Thursday June 11, 2020 CBC’s award-winning investigative unit of CBC Edmonton released the RCMP’s dash-cam footage.
The video itself, which is twelve minutes long, depicts two RCMP officers tackling and punching the Chief whilst screaming at him, “Stop resisting!”
To which Chief Adam responds, “I’m not resisting!”
He is then led bloodied and bruised to the police vehicle.
In the CBC news article, the notes of Const. Simon Seguin said, “I charged at the male [Chief Adam] with the intention of bringing him to the ground. I struck the male as he tried to come up. He turned on his right side. I struck him using my right hand on his right side of the face. I then wound up placing my left knee on the back of the male’s head and ‘cranked’ the male’s left arm up. The male [Chief Adam] was complaining of police brutality.”
Chief Adam’s lawyer, Mr. Beresh stated in an interview, “This was a false arrest; there was no basis for it, and it was excessive force used.” He also stated, “We will let the public look at the video and make a determination.”
Now, I am no political or law-enforcement expert, but I think whoever is teaching officers to clothesline civilians should have a psychological examination.
On June 12, Deputy Commissioner Zablocki walked back his statement disavowing systemic racism in the RCMP saying, “These have been conversations that have challenged my perceptions and made it clear that systemic racism does exist in the RCMP.
“We need to understand and learn, to challenge our assumptions, recognize racism for what it is and most importantly, hold our employees and organization accountable for racist attitudes and behaviours.”
The question now is what are they going to do about it.
Jake Cardinal is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Alberta Native News.