The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is calling for an independent oversight committee to investigate complaints involving police and police conduct following the arrest of Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in March.
A nearly 12-minute RCMP dashcam video of the arrest — and the moments leading up to it — was filed as a court exhibit on Thursday in connection to the incident.
At a press conference Saturday, Adam said the interaction started outside a Fort McMurray, Alta., casino when an RCMP officer approached him and his wife about an expired tag on their vehicle licence plates.
In the nearly 12-minute video, two people, one of them Adam, are seen getting in and out of the vehicle, using expletives, and Adam complains about being harassed by police.
The video shows Adam getting back into his car’s passenger seat after several minutes while a woman stays outside with the officer, who is seen grabbing and twisting her arm, at which point she yells, “Ow!”
“Hey! Leave my wife alone,” Adam is heard saying as he comes out of the car and appears to knock the officer’s hands off the woman, and the officer puts his hands on his hip in a way that appears as though he has his hand on his gun. The woman approaches and appears to try to speak with the officer.
Shortly after they return to the car, Adam emerges again and a police officer approaches him and tries to grab his arms as Adam says “Don’t f–king touch me.” Sirens from another police vehicle can be heard at this point.
The video then shows another officer run into view, tackling Adam to the ground. In the video, that officer and the other officer get on top of Adam, while the officer who tackled Adam punches him and yells, “Don’t resist.”
When he stands up from the ground, video shows Adam with a bloody face. More officers arrive at the scene, and Adam is taken to a police vehicle, according to the video.
He was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
“For too long, First Nations people have been the targets of police violence and brutality,” wrote FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron in a press release Friday.
“All areas of policing need a major overhaul before First Nations people feel safe and protected by the police, without a fear of violence or discrimination.”
Cameron said the RCMP — and other police agencies — need to acknowledge “internalized systemic racism” within their organizations and immediately change how they interact with First Nations people.
“Violence and racism are not acceptable, and this type of behaviour has existed for far too long,” Cameron wrote.
“First Nations people have the right to feel safe in their communities and in public places, especially by those who are there to serve and protect.”
On Saturday, Adam told reporters that he felt compelled to speak up about the incident because “enough is enough” and he wanted to shed light on what racialized Canadians face during arrests.
In a news release issued over the weekend, Wood Buffalo RCMP said officers initiated a vehicle stop on an unoccupied and idling vehicle with an expired plate when Adam returned to the vehicle, at which point a confrontation occurred. RCMP said that during the incident Adam resisted arrest and officers were “required to use force.”
The RCMP said the officers’ actions were reasonable and did not meet the threshold for an investigation. However, Alberta’s police watchdog has since said it has been directed to investigate.
The FSIN is also renewing its calling for a public inquiry into systemic discrimination in the justice system after Gerald Stanley was acquitted following the shooting death of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Indigenous man, in August 2016.
Stanley was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the case.
—With files from Global News’ Phil Heidenreich