Charges against Chief Allan Adam have been dropped after the release of police dashcam footage showing an RCMP officer tackling him to the ground and striking his head back in March.
Adam, who is leader of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, had been charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer outside the Boomtown Casino at 2 a.m. on March 10.
The Crown dropped the charges on Wednesday morning in a Fort McMurray court room.
“I thank the prosecution for what I think is a wise and just decision,” said Adam’s lawyer, Brian Beresh, in court. “This is a great relief for Chief Adam and his family.”
A statement from Alberta Justice said the Crown dropped the charges following “an examination of the available evidence including the disclosure of additional relevant material.”
In a press conference following the court appearance, Beresh accused the arresting RCMP officers of targetting Adam because of his race.
He also announced the officer that tackled and struck Adam, Const. Simon Seguin, was already awaiting trial on charges of assault, mischief and unlawfully being in a dwelling house at the time of Adam’s arrest.
These charges were filed on Aug. 5, 2019 and a trial in Fort McMurray is scheduled for Sept. 30. Seguin was not pulled from active duty after he was charged. Beresh said he discovered this information recently.
Alberta RCMP spokesperson Fraser Logan confirmed Seguin was on-duty and facing criminal charges at the time of the incident.
“Const. Seguin attended a residence while he was off-duty and attempted to gain access inside,” he wrote in an email. “An altercation ensued with two occupants inside before he left the residence.”
The allegations have not been proven in court.
“We would not be here today if a police officer quietly dealt with this matter by way of issuing a ticket in a sensitive, respectful way,” said Beresh. “Today is a historic day because Chief Adam’s case is a call for justice.”
Speaking to media, Adam said he wants the incident to lead to changes in how the RCMP is run. He added he is not calling for the arresting officers to be fired or charged.
“If we are to move forward in any capacity, we have to seriously open the eyes of each and every non-native Canadian to the realities that we, Indigenous people of the land, have had to live with for decades,” said Adam.
Marlene Poitras, Alberta Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations, called for greater local involvement in how communities are policed.
“Officers that fail to protect their people and inflict violence instead are not upholding the responsibilities they swore an oath to honour everyday when they put on their uniforms,” said Poitras. “Anyone suspected of misconduct needs to be investigated independently and not by other police officers in a different force.”