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Report examines how James Smith Cree Nation mass killer was released from custody before massacre

March 12, 2024

Myles Sanderson killed 11, injured 17 others in 2022 rampage

Man wearing glasses, and black and red hat poses for a selfie.
The national joint board of investigation into Myles Sanderson, pictured, was launched soon after the mass stabbing on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon in 2022. (Saskatchewan RCMP/The Canadian Press.

CBC News: An investigation into the statutory release of a man who went on a stabbing rampage in Saskatchewan has made 14 recommendations for the Correctional Service of Canada and the parole board.

The national joint board of investigation into Myles Sanderson was launched soon after the mass stabbing on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon in 2022. Eleven people were killed and 17 others injured as Sanderson went door to door attacking people.

Sanderson, 32, died in police custody a few days after the killings.

Sanderson, who had a record of violent assaults, had received statutory release earlier that year. The killings raised questions about why he was released and how he managed to remain free in the months leading up to the attacks.

WATCH | What we learned in the James Smith Cree Nation stabbing inquest:

1 month ago, Duration 3:40

After a nearly three-week long inquest into the stabbing massacre at James Smith Cree Nation, both the jury and coroner have shared recommendations to help prevent similar tragedies in the future. Here’s a closer look at their findings.

Click on the following link to view the video:

The final report from the joint investigation concluded there were no indicators or precipitating events that were known to correctional service and parole board staff that they could have acted on to prevent the tragedy. It also found the overall case preparation leading up to Sanderson’s release was “reasonable and appropriate.”

The partially redacted report did note some deficiencies, including how Sanderson’s mental health was managed and assessed during his time in federal custody.

The correctional service and the parole board said in a news release that the recommendations were accepted and work is underway to address them.

“What these families and communities have gone through is unimaginable,” Anne Kelly, commissioner of the correctional service, said in a statement. “And we know that getting answers on how such a thing could happen is an important part of their healing process.”

Ten of the recommendations were directed at the parole board, including reviewing scheduling guidelines to allow members more time for preparing for hearings and writing decisions after.

“Time constraint pressures were identified consistently and presented a theme, which appeared to have become normal and an acceptable work culture,” the report said.

Jennifer Oades, the parole board chair, said in statement that the board has taken steps to manage members’ workload so they have time to write decisions.

Four recommendations are directed at the Correctional Service of Canada, including developing policy to address concerns about suicide for offenders under community supervision and domestic violence training for staff involved in assessing risk levels of offenders.

The report noted the chief of mental health services at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary said there were not enough resources in place to complete self-injury assessments on every inmate who needed one.

The report also recommended the correctional service consider the possibility of reinstating the community corrections liaison officer program, which was eliminated in 2015. That program provided dedicated policing support to help community parole officers.

The faces of 11 people, with names and ages when they died, are all in one image.
Eleven people were killed in the Sept. 4, 2022, stabbings. Most were from James Smith Cree Nation. One man was from Weldon, Sask. (CBC)

The report said parole officers expressed concern that they gave information to police agencies, including Saskatoon police and the Melfort RCMP detachment, about Sanderson when he was on the run, but never got any updates in return.

“All communications were one way,” the report said.

Sanderson’s parole documents show he had a lengthy criminal history, including 59 convictions as an adult. He received statutory release in August 2021 from his first federal prison sentence of more than four years. Statutory release kicks in when an offender has served two-thirds of a prison sentence.

Four months into his freedom, Sanderson was found to have been lying about his living arrangements and his release was suspended.

In February 2022, the parole board cancelled that suspension and Sanderson again received statutory release with a reprimand. Three months later, however, the Correctional Service of Canada deemed him to be unlawfully at large and a parole officer issued a warrant for his apprehension.

The report noted in the following months, the parole officer repeatedly called people who knew Sanderson, one of whom said he might be hiding on the James Smith Cree Nation.

The parole officer contacted the RCMP detachment in Melfort, but the Mounties never provided information to the parole officer about what, if anything, had been learned about Sanderson’s whereabouts.

Chief Wally Burns of the James Smith band, one of three that make up the First Nation, said he’s disappointed the community was excluded from the process.

“Canada chose to do an investigation and make recommendations focused on Indigenous inmates without us,” Burns said in a news release. “That speaks volumes to us when one of our band members was the perpetrator, and it’s our people who died in the massacre.”

Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents First Nations in Saskatchewan, agreed it was insulting to be excluded from the investigation.

“This is an opportunity for our governments to collaborate on solutions,” Cameron said in a news release. “We demand and expect Canada to live up to the promises they made to First Nations and include us.”

The joint investigation was completed last year, but the parole board said it was withheld to not interfere with two coroner’s inquests.

The first inquest held earlier this year looked at each of the killings and issued more than two dozen recommendations. A separate inquest into Sanderson’s death last month issued four recommendations for police to improve arrests.


Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

Kelly Geraldine Malone is a reporter for The Canadian Press.