A prominent First Nations chief said RCMP officers assaulted him and his wife over an expired licence plate earlier this year.
Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam said he, his wife Freda Courtoreille, and niece were leaving Boomtown casino in Fort McMurray’s downtown at around 2 a.m. on March 10 when Wood Buffalo RCMP officers stopped him in the parking lot for having an expired registration on his truck.
Adam said he was making room for a friend in the truck’s backseat, his wife sitting in the front, when police officers approached him, according to the Edmonton Journal.
He said officers assaulted him after he asked why he was being stopped, adding that the officers physically removed his wife from the truck and shoved her against it.
That’s when they began to beat him, Adam said.
"I dropped to my knees, and slowly I could feel I was going unconscious but all I could remember…blood was just gushing out of my mouth," Adam told reporters at a press conference Saturday.
A photo circulating online shows Adam’s swollen and bloody face, a bruise forming under his right eye.
Adam and his lawyer, Brain Beresh, showed two citizen videos of the arrest at the press conference, several media organizations reported.
The videos, obtained by VICE, are blurry, but the first shows at least three officers manhandling Courtoreille as they remove her from the truck. In the second video, a woman’s voice can be heard saying, “You don’t have to hit him,” while Adam, pinned down by police, repeatedly asks the officers “what did you do to me?”
The RCMP has said a police cam also recorded footage and Adam is calling on the force to release its video.
Alberta RCMP did not respond to VICE requests for comment, but told the Journal that police used force because Adam resisted arrest after a confrontation with an officer. They also called the officer’s actions “reasonable.”
The RCMP said Adam has been charged with assaulting an officer and resisting arrest. He is scheduled to appear in Wood Buffalo provincial court on July 2.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is “deeply alarmed” by the photo and said his government needs to “do much more” to fight systemic discrimination.
This week, the federal government will explore “concrete measures” to address the kinds of systemic racism that resulted in Adam’s alleged assault, Trudeau said, but did not specify what measures he’s considering.
Adam said he wants a federal investigation into the incident and added that he believes he wouldn’t have been assaulted if he wasn’t a member of a racialized group.
According to CBC, Beresh said, "This is one of the clearest cases of unnecessary police brutality.”
ASIRT, a civilian-led police oversight body in Alberta, told CBC News they’re now investigating the incident.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair as well as Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller took to Twitter to voice their concern over Adam’s allegation.
Miller said he spoke with Adam twice over the weekend.
Adam’s “description of the incident in Fort McMurray and the use of force on both his wife and him at the hands of the RCMP is deeply troubling,” Miller tweeted on Sunday.
Blair said the government will be watching the ASIRT investigation closely.
The news comes after several allegations of police brutality surfaced in Canada last week.
In Nunavut, an RCMP officer is being investigated after ramming his car into an Inuk man before making an arrest; Indigenous leaders are calling for an immediate and independent investigation following the fatal police shooting of a 26-year-old Tla-o-qui-aht woman, Chantel Moore; and Laval police were caught on camera yanking a Black man out of a vehicle by his hair before hitting him on the head.
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