Jurors, coroner release 29 total recommendations
CBC News: After more than two weeks of testimony, the jury at the coroner’s inquest into the stabbing massacre at James Smith Cree Nation shared its recommendations to help prevent similar tragedies in the future.
The inquest, which began on Jan. 15 in Melfort, Sask., has been examining the events of Sept. 4, 2022, when Myles Sanderson killed 11 people — 10 from James Smith and one from the neighbouring village of Weldon.
During the past two weeks, jurors have heard from 30 witnesses including RCMP officers, a psychologist, forensic pathologists, Sanderson’s former partner, officials from the Parole Board of Canada and the elders who worked with Sanderson in prison.
Six jurors were charged by Coroner Blaine Beaven Tuesday morning to come up with recommendations to try to help prevent similar deaths. The jury can make as many recommendations as they wish, or no recommendations at all.
- Elders who worked with Sanderson in prison testify at James Smith Cree Nation stabbing inquest
- Nearly all victims died within minutes of attack, James Smith massacre inquest hears
- James Smith Cree Nation inquest hears from killer’s parole officer
The jury met with the family members Wednesday to share the recommendations before announcing them publicly.
The jurors were also asked to prepare a report for each of the dead, identifying the location, time and cause of death. The jury confirmed Wednesday evening that each of the victims died at James Smith Cree Nation, aside from Wesley Petterson, who died in Weldon, Sask.
The jury shared details of the wounds and determined the cause of each death was homicide.
The jury then gave the following 14 recommendations:
- People in custody should be assigned one person who consistently monitors their progress, both in the facility and then in the community as they are reintegrated. This should be a cultural support social worker or community approval officer.
- The federal Ministry of Public Safety should create a new category of dangerous offenders.
- The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) should hire more workers in federal prisons.
- CSC should increase programming for inmates and work to reduce the caseload on Indigenous elders and case workers.
- CSC should increase its focus on parole officers keeping track of offenders in the first month after release.
- RCMP should make sure any photos of people in the police database have a date clearly marked on them.
- RCMP should increase resources to drug teams to track people involved in drug trafficking.
- James Smith Cree Nation (JSCN) should evaluate its community programming and consider adding programs related to addictions and substance abuse, victim services, adverse childhood experiences, domestic or intimate partner violence, traditional parenting, and programming for children.
- JSCN should create a community resource package or brochure detailing available programming, distribute it to all community members and offenders being released back to the community, and make sure that all available programs are openly advertised.
- JSCN should mandate that all houses have numbers posted on them, all streets have proper signs, and maps are updated and distributed to emergency workers.
- JSCN and local RCMP should encourage collaboration and attendance at community events, such as ceremonies and celebrations, to foster positive relations and trust between the two parties.
- JSCN should continue to provide funding and training to the James Smith Cree Nation Security Force to ensure the safety and security of all within the community.
- JSCN should encourage leadership to continue the process of establishing a local police force in a prompt and timely fashion.
- CSC should make sure community parole officers follow up with offenders to ensure they are receiving support and accessing appropriate medical care upon release.
Coroner Beaven then made 15 recommendations:
- RCMP and JSCN should establish and implement a Public Safety Strategy for JSCN.
- RCMP should immediately implement practices and technologies to make sure patrol officers looking for someone have the most current photo possible, including but not limited to their most recent SGI photo.
- Saskatchewan RCMP’s commanding officer should take all reasonable measures to ensure that the province’s warrant enforcement and suppression team is fully staffed and consider hiring more people for the team.
- Saskatchewan RCMP’s commanding officer should take all reasonable measures to ensure that the crime reduction team is fully staffed and consider hiring more people for the team.
- Saskatchewan RCMP’s commanding officer should take all reasonable measures to ensure that the trafficking response team is fully staffed and consider hiring more people for the team.
- The commander of the warrant enforcement and suppression team should provide a list and details of the 60 most wanted targets to all Saskatchewan RCMP detachments on a regular basis, no less than four times per year.
- RCMP should put more priority on apprehending wanted people known to be repeat domestic offenders.
- When a wanted person is affiliated with a First Nation, RCMP should make sure to be in communication with the First Nation’s leadership about the suspect’s wanted status.
- In accordance with the above, JSCN should canvas community members for information on the whereabouts of any wanted person and provide police with any potentially helpful information in a timely manner.
- JSCN leadership should encourage citizens to report crime to police in a timely and accurate manner.
- CSC should require offenders with a history of domestic violence to complete programming specifically aimed at breaking that cycle prior to release.
- CSC should notify the police service or RCMP detachment with jurisdiction over a First Nation when a warrant is issued for an offender from that community on conditional release.
- CSC should make proactive efforts to engage with First Nation communities to recruit more elders to work in the correctional system and expand programming.
- CSC should make proactive efforts to hire more people to fully staff and offer a complete complement of health programming, including mental health programming such as psychology and psychiatric services.
- CSC should develop programming aimed at the families and community members of offenders to ensure there is a supportive environment for an offender upon release.
Survivors of James Smith Cree Nation stabbing share hopes for recommendations as jury deliberations begin
WATCH | James Smith Cree Nation stabbing survivors share hopes for recommendations: 1 day ago, Duration 3:29
After listening to more than two weeks of testimony, the jury at the coroner’s inquest into the stabbing massacre at James Smith Cree Nation is now deliberating. Family members of the victims and survivors shared their hopes for the recommendations Tuesday.
Click on the following link to view the video:
Families react to recommendations
Over the course of the inquest, many family members of the victims and survivors have shared their hopes that the recommendations could spark systemic changes.
Chelsey Stonestand, who had standing to ask questions on behalf of the family of victims Bonnie and Gregory Burns during the inquest, said Wednesday that the recommendations brought some relief. “I felt blown away by all the considerations that were put into it. It’s not perfect recommendations, but it’s practical,” she told reporters.
Darryl Burns, whose sister Gloria Burns was killed, said he was disappointed that none of the recommendations touch on the impacts of residential schools and intergenerational trauma. “If you look at our history and everything that happened to our native people, it all stems from the residential schools,” he said.
“I’ve talked about the anger that our young people feel. They feel that anger, but they don’t know where it comes from. If you don’t know where it comes from, how can you correct it?”
Brian (Buggy) Burns, who lost his wife and son in the deadly stabbing rampage, said he shared Darryl’s disappointment.
Sask. stabbing inquest recommendations neglect residential school impact, says victim’s brother
WATCH | Sask. stabbing inquest recommendations neglect residential school impact, says victim’s brother: 44 minutes ago, Duration 1:31
Darryl Burns, whose sister Gloria Burns was killed in a stabbing massacre on James Smith Cree Nation, says anger from residential schools has left a lasting legacy that needs to be addressed.
Inquest brought truth, healing: chief coroner
Saskatchewan’s chief coroner Clive Weighill said that after weeks of the inquest, the truth came out. He said the inquest had the widest scope of any ever in Saskatchewan.
Weighill said the inquest was a stepping stone for the community to heal. He said that while not everyone will be satisfied with the recommendations, he believes an inquest, as opposed to a public inquiry, was the best route for this case.
“In two and a half weeks we brought out the whole story that happened that day and a lot of the issues that led up to that,” he said, adding a public inquiry would have taken years.
Weighill said the inquest fostered some healing, as the affected families were brought together in Melfort.
He said 29 recommendations is a lot, as most inquests result in 10 to 20. Weighill stressed that recommendations are not bound by legislation to be enforced.
Will work on recommendations: RCMP
Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, the commanding officer of the RCMP in Saskatchewan, said RCMP will work very hard to address the recommendations directed at them. “My hope is it moves the families in the direction of healing. There’s a lot of healing that needs to happen,” she said.
Blackmore said some work is already underway, including a focus on recruitment of Indigenous officers, but that hurdles like lack of funding exist.
Chiefs to comment further Thursday
Robert Head, chief of Peter Chapman, one of the bands that make up James Smith Cree Nation, and Wally Burns, chief of the James Smith band, said they needed some time to study the recommendations before commenting further.
They said they would address the recommendations in a news conference Thursday afternoon at the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations office in Saskatoon.
A second public inquest focused on the death of Myles Sanderson in custody on Sept. 7, 2022, is scheduled to begin Feb. 26 in Saskatoon.
Support is available for people affected by this tragedy. The Hope for Wellness hotline offers immediate help to Indigenous people across Canada. Mental health counselling and crisis support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.
You can talk to a mental health professional via Wellness Together Canada by calling 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. It is free and confidential.
Talking Stick is a Saskatchewan-based free anonymous chat platform that connects people seeking emotional support to a trained Indigenous peer advocate 24/7.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pratyush Dayal, Reporter
Pratyush Dayal covers climate change, immigration and race and gender issues among general news for CBC News in Saskatchewan. He has previously written for the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, and the Tyee. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from UBC and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org