Charges dropped against First Nations Chief Allan Adam in violent arrest
Adam had been charged with resisting arrest, assaulting police officer
Charges have been dropped against the chief of a northern Alberta First Nation who was the subject of a violent arrest earlier this year.
The case of Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation was in front of a Fort McMurray provincial court judge Wednesday.
Court records show charges of resisting arrest and assaulting a peace officer were withdrawn by the Crown.
"I thank the prosecutor for what I think is a wise and just decision," Adam's lawyer Brian Beresh told the court.
In a news conference later, Beresh said the move validates Adam's view that the arrest was "excessive, unreasonable and unwarranted."
"It is clear that his race played a role in the police decision to charge," Beresh said. He said Adam believes the charges were laid as a "police shield to their aggressive and abusive conduct."
The March 10 arrest stirred controversy following the release of dashcam video showing an RCMP officer tackling Adam to the ground without warning, punching him in the head and putting him in a chokehold.
In a statement, Alberta Justice spokesperson Carla Jones said the Crown withdrew the two charges after examining the available evidence, including the "disclosure of additional relevant material."
The statement said the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service "has no comment on the actions of the police."
Earlier, an unnamed RCMP source who is not authorized to speak to the media said the Crown decided to drop the charges because they were not in the public interest.
Alberta's top Crown prosecutor made the decision, the police source said, adding that the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation chief was worried he would have to resign if convicted.
WATCH | Allan Adam calls for overhaul of justice system:
In a written statement, the RCMP said it is the role of police to investigate and gather evidence, and the role of the Crown to determine whether to prosecute.
The RCMP said it is limited in its ability to comment because the file is being investigated by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the province's police watchdog.
On Twitter, ASIRT announced the investigation will continue, independent of any decisions from the Crown.
ASIRT’s investigation of the March 10 arrest in Fort McMurray will continue as ordered by the Director of Law Enforcement, independent of any decision made by the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service.—@ASIRT_AB
Beresh also noted that the officer who tackled Adam, Const. Simon Seguin, is going to trial on Sept. 30 on charges of assault, mischief and unlawfully being in a dwelling house.
The charges are related to an incident from Aug. 5, 2019.
Seguin "remains on full duty, not suspended, not fired, in full duty allowing him to carry a firearm," Beresh said.
RCMP spokesperson Fraser Logan said the charges against Seguin were laid nine days after an off-duty incident last August, when Seguin had an altercation with two occupants of a house. He had a personal connection to one of the people.
Logan said an internal evaluation after determined Seguin should not be pulled off the job.
Marlene Poitras, Alberta's regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, attended the press conference and said, "If they're [police] going to treat a chief like this, what are they getting away with doing to our own citizens?"
She said police need to be accountable to the people they serve, and that serious consequences are needed for those who discriminate.
"First Nations people should not have to fear for their life every time they interact with the police."
Adam didn't speak at court. During the news conference afterward, he called for several changes to the justice system, including setting up Indigenous police forces, mitigating systemic discrimination practices and police brutality against Indigenous people, and implementing cross-cultural police training.
Adam added that every commissioner and deputy commissioner in the RCMP should try to better understand Indigenous people.
"I recommend that you go and take your sidearms off and you go in the bush with an Aboriginal elder for two weeks and learn to live with our people," said Adam. "If you can't make that commitment to go live in the bush with an elder and learn our ways, then every commissioner and deputy commissioner across this country should all step down."
In the nearly 12-minute video of his arrest, obtained by CBC News, an agitated Adam repeatedly swears at the police officers, accuses the RCMP of harassing him and removes his jacket after officers pulled up behind his idling truck outside the Boomtown Casino in Fort McMurray.
After more arguing, the video shows Adam getting back into the passenger seat. The officer is seen pushing a woman against the truck and yanking her by the shoulder as she shouts, "Ow!"
"Hey! Leave my wife alone! You come for me," Adam says, before swatting the officer's hands away from the woman.
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About seven minutes into the video, a second officer runs at Adam, grabs him by the neck and shoulders and tackles him to the ground.
"Don't resist, sir!" the officer yells, as he straddles the chief. That officer can be seen punching Adam in the side of the head with one arm while holding him down with the other.
WATCH | Full dashcam video of Adam's arrest:
"My name is Chief Allan Adam," Adam says as the two officers pin him down.
The officers eventually handcuff the chief, pull him up and lead him toward the cruiser. His face is bloodied. His laboured breathing can be heard inside the police vehicle toward the end of the video.
Beresh has dismissed claims that Adam escalated the situation. He said his client responded the way he did because he knows how police have treated Indigenous people.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the incident shocking and has called for an independent inquiry.
With files from David Thurton, Jamie Malbeuf